What to Do if Your ISP Is Throttling You

by Ed Oswald ; Updated August 23, 2017

If your Internet connection suddenly slows down and there's nothing wrong with the connection itself, there's a chance your service is being throttled. Internet service providers use throttling to reduce the bandwidth usage of heavy users, which can degrade service for others using the same infrastructure.

Purpose

Throttling is used by ISPs to manage bandwidth usage on their networks. Some providers will limit the bandwidth available to the connections of its heaviest users in order to ensure other customers do not see slower Internet speeds as a result. Throttling can occur on a per-account basis as a result of exceeding a set amount of bandwidth allotted per month, or as a group to the heaviest users during times of high bandwidth usage overall.

Symptoms

Figuring out if your connection has been throttled may be difficult as many providers will not notify you of their actions. Throttling appears as a sudden decrease in download speed or for a specific application when a Internet connection is otherwise operating normally. The throttling may be transient -- lasting only a few hours or days -- as a result of heavy bandwidth use, or may last for the remainder of a billing period if you have exceeded an allotted amount of bandwidth. Internet speeds will return to normal after a period of time in both cases.

What to Do

Call your Internet service provider if you believe you are being throttled. The ISP's customer service representative is typically able to tell you if your account was targeted, and if there is anything you can do to correct it. Try to figure out what may be the cause if you get throttled repeatedly: for example, file sharing and video streaming can use a lot of bandwidth quickly. Chronic heavy bandwidth usage may lead to suspension and termination of your account, so it is important that you understand and address your bandwidth usage problem quickly.

Alternatives

Providers will likely not reverse throttling after it occurs, so it may be necessary to consider alternatives to connect to the Internet for some applications. Even throttled connections have sufficient bandwidth to perform basic functions, but higher bandwidth activities like streaming, downloading, and file sharing may work incorrectly if at all. In these cases, you may need to use a different connection, such as a smartphone or cellular modem, or a shared Internet service like a Wi-Fi hotspot.

About the Author

Ed Oswald is a freelance writer whose work appears on several technology sites as well as on Demand Studios. He has been writing since 2004 and graduated with a degree in Journalism from Temple University.

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