Internet Service Providers (ISPs) usually allocate you a specific amount of bandwidth depending on the amount of money you paid (package subscribed). Bandwidth is the amount of data that your ISP transfers to you and are measured in bits per second(bps). However, it is usually expressed as Mbps on ISP packages. This is also what most people refer to as speed as it determines how fast you will download your files, or which quality will you be able to stream your videos. The higher the bandwidth, the more speed or higher quality you will get.
Almost everybody has experienced this injustice when doing any data intensive task. For instance, you may have been streaming online videos legally the whole day, and at a certain point, you realize that the quality dropped. Or you could have been torrenting, and at specific times you realize your speed drastically declined. Most people will assume it’s the links that have been congested or give another reason and wait for the speed to be normal. But that’s not the case; the link will be free most times, the fault goes to your ISP. If you doubt this, next time you experience a reduction in video quality, just do a speed test. The figures (Mbps) you will get are not the ones you paid for.
Why do ISPs throttle your bandwidth?
There are many reasons or excuses that explain why ISPs decide to throttle your speed. Here are some of them;
- They lied about their bandwidth – this is the case where false marketing plays the dubious role. ISPs may have advertised 20mbps, but when you do your speed tests, you will always end up getting 13mbps to 15 Mbps even when nothing is downloading. In this case, ISPs cannot fulfil what they promised and hence lack the bandwidth to give out. The best thing to do here is to opt out of that ISP and look for better ISPs.
- Peak hours – these are the hours in which everyone is using the internet. During peak hours, the demand is so high that the ISP’s infrastructure cannot handle the service efficiently. To avoid a breakdown, the ISPs will throttle the bandwidth by a certain percentage so that everyone gets the internet. As much as this is a good thing (internet equality), it’s also so wrong as people are using their hard-earned money and in turn, they get poor services.
- Data-intensive services – some ISPs may decide to limit bandwidth on some services to strong-arm users to pay more. For instance, ISPs may throttle data coming from streaming and P2P services. They will then come up with another pricier package that allows you to use the said services smoothly.
Stopping ISPs from throttling your bandwidth
If after running a couple of tests and you discover that the speed you are getting is not the one you paid for, you are a victim of ISP bandwidth throttling. The next thing you should do is stopping this injustice but at a small extra cost.
To throttle your bandwidth, ISPs usually have an insight into what you are doing on their network, that’s, they are continually monitoring which services you access and so on. To avoid throttling, you must first hide your internet traffic from your ISP. The surest way to do this is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN encrypts all your internet traffic and channels it through a secure tunnel that even your ISP won’t be able to see. Hence your ISP won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth if the ISP doesn’t know what you are doing. But you should expect a small drop in the bandwidth like <1mbps due to encryptions involved.