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November 17, 2017
Slow speeds aren’t always your fault. Some Internet Service Providers (ISP) intentionally withhold speeds. Which, at first glance, makes little sense–why would a provider not provide?
Technically, network throttling is the intentional slowing of internet service by an ISP. Sometimes web hosts deploy these measures as a reactive way of regulating network traffic. Some servers aren’t built to handle unexpected traffic, so throttling helps to minimize bandwidth congestion and usage.
But sometimes you’re minding your own business, binging services like Netflix when–BAM–Lag. Most consumers pay their bills on time and don’t have a whole lot of devices–why are you being punished?
Unfortunately, you can’t prevent internet throttling. Often, internet customers are contractually bound and can face major repercussions by trying to bypass ISP throttling. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is responsible for ensuring companies don’t take advantage of their customers.
Everybody Loves a Merger.
With the approval of the FCC in 2015, Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable became Spectrum. Spectrum also agreed to stop the “cap on data” practice for seven years.
While not the same thing as bandwidth throttling, some ISPs with a data cap policy throttle the Internet speeds of their customers who exceed their monthly data allowance. Others charge an overage fee; for example AT&T’s runs $10 for each 50 GB of data consumed per month past their cap.
Understanding the difference between throttling, data caps, and overages can save you a lot of money in the long run. User End License agreements are frustrating, not because no one actually takes the time to read them, but they’re often used as fallback actions for most services to do what they like, when they like.
Read carefully and understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into before signing or agreeing to any contract.
Spectrum’s Bandwidth Throttling Policy
Even with their FCC agreement, Spectrum included a bandwidth throttling policy in their fine print. Meaning, no data caps, but they might as well have with their ability to throttle bandwidth whenever they see fit.
*Personal Note: I find it hilarious that they never actually updated the policy to use their new company name, that’s how old and unattended this policy is.
“Charter uses a variety of reasonable network management tools and practices consistent with industry standards. In the event the periods of congestion necessitate such management, Charter has available the following tools and practices (without limitation and as may be adjusted over time):
(i) use of an upper limit of bandwidth allocated for uploading of files during congested periods;
(ii) Subscriber Traffic Management (STM) technology to temporarily lower the priority of traffic with the greatest impact on peak congestion;
(iii) spam filtering and detection techniques; and
(iv) measures to protect the security and integrity of its network, resources and subscribers. In limited instances if employed, these techniques may affect the throughput rate at which subscribers may send and receive data, the ability of users to establish session connections within the network, or result in the delay of certain traffic during times of peak congestion.”
Tl;dr, during high network traffic, Spectrum may limit bandwidth for uploading data, and reduce the priority of the network traffic. Ultimately, they will throttle your bandwidth if network congestion warrants, with the hopes of providing a similar level of service to every customer.
Before you assume that your internet connection is being throttled, you can run a simple speed test to ensure the speeds you’re receiving are as advertised.
Throttling goes a little deeper than that though. Shortly after 2015, Charter Communications went from a ~7% growth average to ~300% growth. Then kept posting those kinds of numbers for the following three quarters.
While Spectrum doesn’t impose data caps, the marketability of throttling leads to enough consumers inadvertently purchasing better plans, just to increase their overall connection speeds. And providers are getting smarter too–the odds that you bypass ISP throttling without a VPN are low. Which leads us to:
How Can I Stop My Spectrum From Throttling?
VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network.” Using a VPN for throttling is the main way most consumers (especially businesses) avoid loss of connectivity during peak hours.
Not only can you use a VPN to stop throttling, but it also secures your data. This allows you to reach sites that might otherwise be harmful. Most private browsers keep you from going to sites where your information might be at risk, or could be stolen. But when your private ip address fails, and VPN can keep you safe.
A VPN encrypts that data, and ensures safety. That failsafe can drop when an ISP throttles your bandwidth–from there the VPN jumps in.
A VPN Kill Switch cuts your connectivity altogether if either the VPN or ISP firewalls fail. This is an added measure to keep you safe and free from viruses, spam, and hackers. There isn’t a “best” VPN to stop throttling, just a selection with different features depending on your needs.
Four VPN’s that boast 99.99% uptime and guaranteed safety are:
What Are the Leading Causes for Disconnections?
99.99% uptime is a lot to boast–but it’s not 100%. Some things are just outside of even a VPN’s control.
The two leading reasons for a lost connection are:
- Firewall and/or router settings: Your firewall, antivirus, or anti-spyware program settings may cause your connection to drop frequently. To test, disable these features and try to connect. If the connection stabilizes with the features disabled, you’ll need to add the VPN network as an exception before you launch them again.
- Inadequate signal strength/network congestion: Because VPN services allow users to connect to distant servers, it’s an easy mistake to think the local Wi-Fi conditions are unimportant. Unfortunately, a weak signal could affect your VPN connection. Weak signals tend to lead to outages altogether. In addition, heavy usage—like at coffee shops, airports, and busy libraries—can cause VPN connections to become unstable.
The “best” vpn for throttling is the one that meets all of your businesses (or personal) needs. Research each to know how they approach each outage. Not all VPNs carry a kill switch, double-check so your info stays safe.
Find out if your bandwidth is being throttled.
Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.