A slow internet connection can have many causes, but if you are experiencing consistently low speeds, you may wonder if your internet service provider is intentionally slowing your connection. This is known as "throttling." Much like your phone's internet may slow to a crawl after you exceed your month's data, throttling severely limits bandwidth to certain websites or services, or even your internet in general. But before you assume your ISP is limiting your speed on purpose, there are a few steps you can take to try to narrow down the problem.
Reset Your Hardware
Even high-quality routers can start to slow down if they're left on for too long. A good rule of thumb is to perform a power cycle about once a month. To do this, shut down all your computers and other wireless devices, then unplug your router from its power supply (you don't need to unplug anything else). Wait 60 seconds, then plug the router back in. Once it has started up, turn on your devices to see if there is any improvement.
Check Your Bandwidth Use
If you have a lot of devices connected to your network, each one uses a little bandwidth to check email, download app updates, play YouTube videos and download files. Some heavier processes, like downloading large files, can take almost all your network's available bandwidth. If your internet suddenly slows down, make sure none of your devices are doing heavy uploading or downloading in the background.
While you're at it, try to find out how much bandwidth you have used this month. Many ISPs have data caps, and if you exceed those caps, you may be charged extra or your internet speed will slow. ISPs occasionally throttle heavy users to prevent other customers from experiencing slower speeds. If you can't check this on your bill or online, call your ISP to see if they can help.
Look for Consistent Timing
If your internet slows down around the same time every day, you may be experiencing the effects of peak hours. This is when the most people in your area are online, and your ISP may not have the bandwidth necessary to give full speed to everyone. If your internet is faster in the evenings and early mornings, this could be another sign that it's simply a side effect of heavy use in your area. All the same, if you decide to call your ISP, it's helpful to have this information on hand.
Ask a Friend
If you have a local friend who has a different ISP, ask them to try some of the same things you are trying to do. If they don't experience the same problems, then you have started to narrow down the problem to your ISP rather than the websites' servers. This doesn't necessarily point to throttling, but it does help you establish where the problem is coming from.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a method of rerouting communication through different networks than the ones your ISP uses. By redirecting this communication, it makes it harder for your ISP to track, and subsequently throttle. If you can browse with normal speeds through a VPN but not with your ISP's default connections, your ISP is likely causing the problem.
How to Stop It
In most cases, the best solution is to call your ISP and ask why your connection has been slowed. If your account has been flagged for heavy bandwidth use or exceeding bandwidth caps, they can tell you and help you try to address the problem.
If that isn't enough, you can switch to using a VPN or using a different type of connection, such as tethering your cell phone or using a public hotspot or even switching to another provider. For more information about your options, contact a company like Valley TeleCom Group.