Although not every ISP engages in bandwidth throttling, internet users might find that the problem is growing. In the U.S., in particular, Net Neutrality exists but doesn’t actually prevent ISPs from throttling bandwidth. However, you can continue to enjoy your internet streaming if you bypass ISP throttling with a VPN.
Below, we provide what to look for in a VPN that can bypass IPS throttling, as well as which VPNs fit the bill. We also provide some useful information on why you’re going to need A VPN if you want don’t want to have your streaming come to a halt.
Which VPNs Can Bypass ISP Throttling?
When looking for VPNs that can throttle data, you want a VPN that will:
- Use shared IP addresses
- Maintain encrypted tunnels
- Utilize multiple different protocols, such as OpenVPN TCP 443, IPSec/L2TP, or PPTP
- Maintain a no-logs policy
- Maintain data leak protection methods for DNS, IPv4, and IPv6
- Protections against Deep Packet Inspection
All of these are particularly important to keeping your identity secure and ensuring that the ISP cannot identify your data usage. Here’s why:
Shared IP Addresses
Your IP address is like your physical home address. Your ISP assigns you an IP address and uses it to track back data usage to individual users. When you connect to a VPN server and get assigned a shared IP address, your ISP can’t determine who the IP address belongs to you, as it could be you or any other several hundred people who have used that IP address.
Encrypted tunnels are important to maintain your anonymity. These tunnels prevent the ISP from breaking into your upload and download streams to determine who you are. A good VPN service will utilize military-grade encryption that cannot be broken through with modern computing methods.
Without getting too complicated, you can access data on the internet through channels. Some are more secure than others, while some are almost guaranteed never to get blocked by an ISP. A good VPN service will utilize multiple protocols and let users choose or automatically switch to different channels when it’s necessary.
If an ISP does somehow obtain your VPN provider’s user information, having a service that only keeps non-identifying metadata is important. This way, even if the information gets to your ISP, it can’t determine your identity through the data it’s obtained, making that data effectively useless. Most VPN services also allow you to create accounts without personally identifying information, making them even more secure.
Data Leak Protection
At times, your VPN service may go down. If that occurs, your data usage could leak to your ISP. A good VPN service will employ software methods protect you against leaks. There are a number of different methods that exist, including kill switches that stop internet-using programs from operating in the case of a data leak. However, you will want a VPN service that can protect against DNS, IPv4, and IPv6 data leaks.
Deep Packet Inspection Prevention
Deep Packing Inspection, or DPI, is a new and highly complex method that ISPs can now employ to bypass VPN usage. Instead of looking at the data itself, ISPs will determine the source of the data through inference based on the data packet head. A good VPN will utilize countermeasures against this so that even the data packet head contains anonymized and obfuscated data.
Best VPN Service To Bypass VPN Throttling: IPVanish
IPVanish is a quality VPN service provider that matches all of the above criteria. We’ve tested several different VPN services, and have found that IPVanish provides the most consistent service for those who love to stream video over the internet.
IPVanish meets all of the above criteria to a high level. Here’s how it matches up:
Shared IP address: 40,000
Server locations: 60+
Protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, IPSec/L2TP
Data leak protections: DNS, IPv4, and IPv6. Also, uses a kill-switch for connection drops
No-logs policy: Yes
Deep Packet Inspection Prevention: Yes, using “Scramble” feature for OpenVPN protocol
All of these benefits work together to make IPVanish an excellent tool to help stop ISP throttling. Additionally, you’ll find that IPVanish has extremely fast servers, and provides unlimited bandwidth as well. That IPVanish does not cap your data usage is incredibly important, especially given that such potential data caps is one of the primary reasons you’re turning to a VPN service in the first place.
We recommend IPVanish for those who like to do heavy streaming, or those who do a fair amount of online gaming as well.
Additional IPVanish benefits
[su_service title=”Access All Streaming Content” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472372879_key.png”]Get past any geo-restrictions, firewalls or ISP blocks to unlock more streaming content around the world.[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Multi-Device Support” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472374047_04.png”]IPVanish has apps for your android box, computer, and mobile devices.[/su_service]
[su_service title=”Complete Privacy” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472373129_lock.png”]No one (including your ISP) can see what you’re watching. End to end encryption.[/su_service]
[su_service title=”No Logs” icon=”https://flixed.io/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1472373440_12.File_.png”]IPVanish does not collect or log any traffic or use of its VPN service.[/su_service]
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Three Additional VPNs to Consider
Here are a few additional services that may provide a good quality service:
Click here to read our NordVPN review.
NordVPN fits the above criteria well and includes several different server options in a way that is unique to this service. It lacks much of the speed and server space that you will find with IPVanish but provides good, quality service to bypass ISP throttling.
Click here to read our ExpressVPN review.
ExpressVPN also fits all of the above criteria, although server speeds are not as high with this service. Deep Packet Inspection prevention exists on this service through the Obfusproxy tool, and the service also utilizes the SSTP protocol and SSL encryption.
Private Internet Access (PIA)
Click here to read our PIA review.
This service meets all of the above criteria. It falls short on the number of servers locations available (25) but has the largest total number of servers of any service around (over 3200). One thing PIA does have going for it is the fact that an actual court case has tested its no-logs policy — and was found to be truthful and effective.
What is ISP Throttling?
One big question you may have is why any of this matters. Why use a VPN to bypass ISP throttling?
When you use your home internet, your Internet Service Provider, or ISP, actively monitors your incoming and outgoing data usage. At times, the ISP will slow down the internet for heavy data users, especially during times when a lot of customers are using the network at the same time. While this may seem intrusive, there are some misconceptions regarding what the ISP is actually doing and looking at.
How Do I know if I’m Being Throttled?
You may be able to tell if you’re being throttled by using performing a speed test. (Click here to access SpeedTest.net or the Internet Health Health Test).
A speed test will determine your upload speed and download speed. To best determine if your speed is being throttled, test your speed at the beginning of the day, middle of the day, and end of the day. Additionally, test it while you’re not using any much data, and while you’re streaming. If you find a significant speed reduction, you’re quite possibly being throttled, especially if that slow down occurs during the middle of the day when server traffic for the ISP should be low.
ISPs Look for Specific Types of Data Usage
In general, there is not an individual sitting at a computer watching your computer traffic and spying on the websites you’re visiting. ISPs employ software measures that look for data usage, patterns and specific types of data that indicate which websites and services you’re accessing. Protocols and laws in most countries prevent ISPs from actually spying on your very private information to the effect that someone could steal your identity or access your private information.
However, the information that do ISPs look for, such as streaming from Netflix or different websites, can be used to determine how much bandwidth you’re using.
For ISPs, bandwidth is particularly important. An easier way to understand data bandwidth is to think of it as similar to lanes on a highway. The more lanes there are, the more traffic that can pass through the roadway, and the fewer slowdowns you have. However, when a lot of cars are crowding the roadway, you either have to increase the number of lanes or forbid some individuals from accessing the roadway to reduce the traffic.
ISP throttling is essentially the latter case for many reasons, but more specifically because it’s the cheapest way to maintain a steady supply of bandwidth. However, ISPs tend to throttle the heaviest data users (which comprise a smaller percentage of internet users) so that those who are light users can enjoy their fast download and upload speeds. ISPs engage in this practice because it allows them to maintain more bandwidth with limited monetary investment.
ISPs Think You Should Pay More for More Bandwidth
Nevertheless, you’ll probably notice that there are times of day where your internet download and upload speeds seem to differ. Just like morning and evening rush hour, there are simply times when it’s unavoidable that you’ll be using the internet at the same time as most other people served by your ISP, so some bandwidth issues are unavoidable. Still, ISPs want to retain the right to throttle speeds, and many have what condition will trigger bandwidth throttling written into the user agreements.
In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a Mediacom Senior Vice President wrote the following statement:
“Imagine you are out for a walk and experience a sudden, irresistible craving for Oreo® cookies. You only want to spend two dollars, which means that you will be able to buy a two-pack or maybe even a four-pack but for sure you cannot get the family size of over 40 cookies. For that many, you have to spend more. Of course, it would be nice if your two dollars bought you the right to eat an unlimited number of cookies, but you know that is not the way our economy works.”
Yes, ISPs see your data as more of as a usable or consumable good. However, we know that this analogy doesn’t exactly work when applied to data. Data isn’t a consumable good that must be replaced, like Oreo cookies. It can be unlimited, but it would require ISPs to invest in better infrastructure, something that they are often somewhat slow to do due to profit maximization.
Although many ISPs throttle data, most now avoid having a specified data caps. This is because ISPs recognize that there are distinct differences in why some users may be using a large amount of data. Business customers and their employees, for example, may use a very large amount of bandwidth any given day, uploading and downloading terabytes of data through the network. As “Big Data” becomes more necessary for businesses, these massive uploads and downloads will just increase, and ISPs are not going to throttle customers for this kind of usage.
However, when an ISP sees massive data passing between a customer’s computer and a streaming website, they’ll deem the data usage as unnecessary. This means they’ll discriminate between where the data is going, and prioritize customers whose data is more business-related. A good VPN, however, will help hide where your data is going, preventing the ISP from discriminating against your data usage and throttling your speeds.
How Can a VPN Bypass ISP Throttling?
As stated, heavy bandwidth usage is increasing, especially among businesses, so ISPs know that they can’t simply impose strict data caps or throttle all heavy bandwidth users. Instead, they look for specific types of data usage, such as online streaming through Netflix, Hulu, or torrents, and throttle those users first to guarantee bandwidth for other users.
Using the methods mentioned earlier in this guide, all your ISP can determine is that you’re connected to a VPN. They cannot tell what websites you’re connecting to, and especially cannot determine that your data usage is through streaming websites.
Note that this is not a guarantee, however. Some ISPs do still employ a strict data cap with a specific amount of data usage. In those cases, the ISP won’t care if it can’t tell where the data is coming or going. It will simply reduce your bandwidth once you’ve reached your monthly cap. This is common with mobile internet providers, and those users who obtain their internet through satellite.
What is Net Neutrality? Why is it Important?
Net Neutrality is a principle that says ISPs and governments who monitor internet traffic should treat all data the same, not discriminating on data based on the source.
Most countries currently have some form of Net Neutrality legislation in place, although no country allows for complete neutrality. At the least, spam and malicious activity are usually data activity that can be filtered, for example. In the case of the U.S., for example, Net Neutrality laws exist but do not restrict ISPs from discriminating against heavy data users to help with bandwidth congestion problems.
In general, many ISPs can find a legal loophole to throttle data, making it important for users to utilize a VPN and anonymize their data activity.
Can a VPN Prevent ISPs from Selling My Data?
Yes! The same methods that a VPN will use to hide your identity and data usage are useful in keeping the ISP from obtaining and selling your data. As long as your identity and data usage are masked behind the VPN connection, the type of websites you visit, age, and especially location data are not accessible by your ISP and cannot be sold.
Sam Cook is a full-time content strategist by day, a part-time freelance content writer since 2015. In another life, he was a high school English teacher for nearly a decade. Based in sunny New Orleans, he writes long-form educational content on technology, including Insurtech, Fintech, HRtech, and content streaming. He loves whittling down complex ideas within these areas that make decisions easier for buyers. When he’s not reading books with his son Miles and playing video games with the family, you can find him immersed in his growing collection of Euro-style board games.