ISP Throttling: This Could Be Why Your Home Internet Is So Slow

This story is part of home tipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, both indoors and out.

Slow internet is incredibly frustrating and to make matters worse, it can be hard to know exactly why your speeds are dragging on. There are a number of different factors that affect home Wi-Fi and Internet connections: router may be outdated or it could even be in the wrong location in your house. There may be simple solutions to these problems, such as: upgrade to a mesh network or just restart your modem and router† But you might also be able to blame your slow Wi-Fi on something your ISP does on purpose: bandwidth throttling.

Yes, you read that right. Your ISP may be slowing down your Wi-Fi on purpose. As a consequence of the 2019 Supreme Court decision refuse to hear an appeal to net neutrality, ISPs can still legally choke your internet, limit your broadband if you stream more TV than they want and offer slower connections to websites owned by their competitors.

A solution for slow wifi — if in fact it is caused by internet restriction — is a virtual private network† Basically, ISPs need to see your IP address to slow down your internet, and a good VPN will shield that identity – although it has some limitations and drawbacks, which I’ll discuss below. We’ll show you how to tell if throttling is the cause, and if not, what to do to fix your crappy Wi-Fi.

read moreYou can get free wifi anywhere in the world. here’s how

Step 1

Fix your slow internet connection first

So your WiFi is slow and you think your service provider is throttling your connection. Before jumping to those conclusions, it’s important to run through the usual troubleshooting list: make sure your router is centrally located in your home, reposition the antennas, check your network security, and so on. If you want to read more ways to optimize your wifi, check out our suggestions

If you’ve gone through the laundry list and your Wi-Fi is still sluggish, move on to the next step.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

Step 2

Test your internet speed


Step 3

Find a reliable VPN

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

Step 4

Compare your speed with the VPN

Then test your internet speed somewhere like or† Compare the results with the same test when your VPN is active. Using a VPN should significantly decrease your speed, so the speed tests should show a discrepancy, with the VPN active speed being significantly lower than the VPN inactive speed. But a VPN also hides the IP address that providers use to identify you, so if your speed test with the VPN is faster then without the VPN, that could mean your ISP is targeting your IP address for throttling.

Screenshot by David Priest/CNET

Okay, this is the hard part. Even if you find out that your provider is throttling your internet, there may not be much you can actually do. Many people in the US live in regions with ISP monopolies or duopolies, so you may not be able to find a better provider. But here are a few helpful responses:

  • like you to do options, use the best provider in your area. Measurement lab provides a good resource for finding information specific to your region, and that can direct you to a more reliable ISP.
  • Use your VPN to maintain more consistent speeds. A VPN can’t fix a bad connection or other reasons behind your slow service, but it can reduce the throttling of unscrupulous ISPs.
  • Call your provider and threaten to switch providers if they don’t stop cutting your internet. This may seem old-fashioned and I can’t guarantee lasting results, but providers have responded positively to such tactics when I used them.

Read more about the best VPNs to use while working from homethe fastest VPNs and VPNs you can try for free before buying. And here are the best fast ISPs and the best wifi extender for almost everyone

Correction, February 10, 2020: In this article, the 2019 net neutrality ruling was wrongly attributed to the Supreme Court, rather than to the DC Circuit Court deciding the case. The Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal.

More Home Internet and Broadband Resources

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *