Is your internet connection being throttled? Here’s how to tell


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Have you noticed websites loading slowly, even after ruling out issues with your internet connection and router? If you still struggle with slow internet speeds after troubleshooting, you might be experiencing throttling from your internet service provider (ISP). ISP throttling is an industry practice in which internet companies limit how much bandwidth you can use by cutting down your speeds.

Throttling is a frustrating experience for consumers because many don’t even know it’s happening. Our guide offers insight into how to tell if your internet is being throttled, why ISP throttling happens, and how to stop it.

What Is ISP Throttling?

ISP throttling is a money-saving tactic used by internet companies to moderate network traffic, control bandwidth congestion, and mandate data limits. By slowing down services and preventing users from consuming the most bandwidth, prioritized users can surf with less lag. Internet signals are often from shared cell towers that individuals within a certain radius of your home also use.

Once you’ve determined that it’s not your router that is causing issues, but rather your ISP throttling your data, you know that internet bandwidth is never truly unlimited. ISPs throttle users to get around limitations and save money.

Why Does Throttling Happen?

Throttling occurs with data-intensive activities like gaming, streaming, and torrenting online. By throttling data, internet companies can take on more customers without adequately scaling their services. While throttling frequently happens with mobile and wireless services, it isn’t as common with cable, DSL, and fiber internet connectivity.

Here are some common scenarios for throttling.

Network Congestion

Network congestion is when too many users attempt to access a network. When the network reaches its maximum capacity and becomes congested, internet companies commonly use ISP throttling to regulate connectivity between users. Network congestion is likely to occur during high traffic times throughout the day or in areas with a high concentration of users, like apartment complexes and public spaces with a free Wi-Fi connection.

Exceeding a Data Cap

A data cap is a number (in GB) that represents the maximum amount of data that you can use each month. Your internet provider is likely to throttle your internet service with a soft data cap if you surpass the amount of bandwidth on your service plan. Data caps are a way for internet companies to police bandwidth usage on their networks. We’ve listed every single internet provider with data caps on their plans.

Paid Prioritization

A more controversial reason for ISP throttling is paid prioritization, a financial arrangement whereby a company pays an ISP to have their data prioritized above other data on the network, like a fast lane. In 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) overturned existing net neutrality laws and legalized paid prioritization. Critics of net neutrality fear that large companies with data-intensive services, like Netflix or YouTube, could strike deals with internet companies, making it challenging to access competitors’ sites.

How Can I Tell If My Internet Is Being Throttled?

If you’re experiencing slow speeds or intermittent connectivity, there’s a chance that you’re experiencing ISP throttling. Because slow connectivity depends on various factors, the only way to ascertain that your internet hasn’t been throttled is to administer and then compare the results of two internet speed tests.

Here are three easy steps to determine whether or not your internet is being throttled:

1. Run an Internet Speed Test

By running an internet speed test, you can compare the speeds you’re getting to the speed that you’re paying for on your data plan. ISPs are known for monitoring and modifying these speed tests, so once you’ve run a speed test on your computer, you’ll need to do it a second time with a reputable virtual private network (VPN).

2. Download and Activate a Reputable VPN

It’s a common practice for ISPs to manipulate the results of speed tests, so it’s important to re-run an internet speed test on a VPN to get an untampered reading. A VPN is an encrypted connection that acts as a secure tunnel for users to send and receive data on public networks. With a VPN, the content you view online will be encrypted and hidden from your ISP.

3. Compare Results From Another Speed Test

Once you’ve re-run your second internet speed test on a VPN, compare the two results. If your results are in the same range with and without the VPN, then chances are that you’re not being throttled by your ISP. On the other hand, if your results are significantly different, it’s likely that your internet is being throttled.

How Do I Stop My ISP From Throttling My Internet?

If you have confirmed that your ISP is throttling your data, the next step is to try to stop it from doing so.

Here are steps you can take:

  • Monitor your data usage more closely. Staying on top of your data usage is a preventive measure to avoid reaching your cap. If you find yourself surpassing your cap regularly, then it might be time to look for a plan with a higher data allowance.
  • Use a VPN when you’re online. If your ISP can’t see the content you’re viewing online, it will not throttle you for specific activities. Navigating the internet with a reputable VPN will hide your activity from your ISP and decrease your chance of being throttled.
  • Reach out to government officials. If you’re dissatisfied with the current state of net neutrality, you can contact the FCC to share your concerns or reach out to your state representatives and share how this legislation impacts you.
  • Find a new ISP. If you can’t resolve throttling by your current provider, it may be time to cancel and switch to a new ISP with a higher data cap. We have a comprehensive list of internet providers and their coverage and download speeds.

Is Throttling Legal?

Throttling an internet connection is like a sneaky business that shortchanges its customers. Nonetheless, throttling is a legal practice, as long as ISPs adequately explain it to their customers. On the other hand, failure to inform customers about throttling is illegal. There have been several lawsuits regarding deceptive throttling that have landed certain ISPs in the hot seat for false advertising regarding unlimited data.

Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Throttling

Which VPN is best to stop ISP throttling?

One of the best VPNs to stop ISP throttling is ExpressVPN, the leading VPN, with a network of high-speed servers across 94 countries, and Windscribe VPN, which is free.

Do all ISPs throttle data?

Typically, ISPs throttle only those who they consider to be heavy internet users during high traffic times.

How do I know if my ISP is throttling my Netflix?

Perform an internet speed test, conduct another speed test with a VPN, and then compare the results.

How do I stop my ISP from throttling me without a VPN?

Using a proxy server to avoid ISP throttling may be a temporary solution, but the best solution is to download a reputable VPN.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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Here’s how you can get free internet anywhere

Here’s how you can get free internet anywhere

Let’s face it: Internet access makes the world go round but it definitely seems to be for the more privileged. What if I told you it didn’t have to be that way and that you could legally get free internet and Wi-Fi at home (and anywhere you go).

We love finding new ways to get free stuff and save more money. Internet is the big kahuna though. If you can find free ways to get access to the world wide web, imagine how much money you could save.

Internet connection is a big factor in our everyday life whether you take online classes for school, work remotely from home or nomadically, or need to meet with your doctor virtually due to physical restrictions.

It powers most of our lives but it’s not cheap.

We pay $50 a month for our Wi-Fi through Charter who is the only service provider in our area. However, you could end up paying much more than $50 a month depending on your mobile data usage, the type of package you need, non-promotional prices, and your location. 

Those in rural areas may not have the same options as those closer to the city and may only have DSL or broadband to choose from.

If you think that the majority of people are paying an average of $50 to $100 a month on internet service, that comes out to $600 to $1,200 a year. They could be potentially be saving up to $1,200 a year or more if they were able to get that internet for free.

Let’s dive into exactly how they can do that, legally (because we don’t want to go to jail).

So if you’re looking for ways to “hack your way” to free internet, this isn’t the article for you. There will be no hacking of other people’s internet going on here. Let’s respect each other’s data privacy.

If you don’t already know you can use your phone’s Wi-Fi hot spot as a way to get internet in a pinch, it isn’t exactly free since you are already paying for it through your cell phone service provider. 

Some service providers even require you to add hot spot usage as an add-on service in order to be able to use it.

If you are someone who can afford that, that’s great. Many people who live in rural areas or are digital nomads go this route with a cell signal booster.

People who already pay for internet service at home, their provider could also operate a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that they can connect to for free. It isn’t absolutely for free since they already pay for internet with this service provider but will help them save money when they are away from their home. 

Service providers that currently offer this connection for free are AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Optimum and Spectrum.

For others that don’t have either one of these as an option, let’s look into the legal free ways to find internet service both at home and on the go.

Note: You will see some of these options include using free Wi-Fi at establishments that are no longer open currently due to social distancing and self-isolation orders in many states within the U.S. (and other countries). 

If the Wi-Fi is still up and running at these places, you could still use it in their parking lots if you absolutely have no other way and don’t have a legal order in your area for only essential commuting. However, you might need to direct towards the other options that are favorable to staying within your home.

scanrail / istockphoto

Founded in 2012, FreedomPop is the world’s first 100% free mobile plan.

In addition to their free 4G mobile phone service, they also offer:

  • free wireless internet
  • free home broadband

Their free option is their Basic 200 plan which includes 200MB data a month, 200 minutes and 500 texts. They also have an LTE plan that has the 200MB a month free as well as a free trial of their 2GB plan.

By using Voice over IP (VoIP), their devices receive signals from their network towers that are close to them. Those towers are powered by other, larger networks. In this particular setup, they piggyback off of Sprint which is why they are able to provide their services.

In addition to free mobile service, they also offer a suite of devices, digital services, and the ability to share data across accounts.

FreedomPop is currently only available in the U.S. and U.K.

Freedompop / I Like To Dabble

NetZero was founded in 1998 and use dial-up connections. So yes, you will need a phone line in your home in order to use their home service. However, if you don’t have one, you can opt for their mobile broadband option but you’ll be required to purchase one of their devices.

Their free options include 10 hours of free internet a month via their dial-up option and 200MB a month via their mobile broadband option (with the purchase of a NetZero Mobile Broadband device). Much like FreedomPop, they also have paid services available if you want to increase your usage.

The features included in the 10 hours monthly of free NetZero dial-up are:

  • reliable connections
  • email with mobile and web access
  • create as many email addresses as you want, for free

How is this possible? Ads. That free option comes with a lot of ads.

NetZero / I Like to Dabble

Juno rose on the scene 2 years before NetZero. Just like NetZero, Juno also offers 10 hours a month of free internet access via dial-up. 

And also like NetZero, Juno’s free option is free because of the sponsored ads they serve you.

There is no contract required and their free service includes:

  • reliable connections
  • email with mobile and web access
  • create as many email addresses as you want, for free

Juno / I Like to Dabble

Founded in 2004, 1-2-Free ISP claims to offer fast and free ISP services with:

  • no access charges
  • no contracts
  • no ongoing commitments

1-2-Free will not charge you to access the internet but you will have to pay the cost of the local call when you use their service.

1-2-3 Free ISP / I Like to Dabble

EveryoneOn is a nonprofit founded in 2012 dedicated to connecting low-income families to affordable internet service, computers and digital skills. Since 2012, they’ve been able to connect 700,000 people.

To gain free access to the internet, it depends on your zip code and situation that you fill in on the website to look at offers you qualify for. 

However, you may be able to qualify to get two free months of internet access if you sign up by April 30, 2020. 

EveryoneOn / I Like to Dabble

When you’re on the go, it can be especially hard to find Wi-Fi to connect to and use for free (and without time limits). 

Instabridge is an app that is available for both iPhone and Android phones that provide you with free Wi-Fi spots and passwords based on your location.

Originally the app was founded so you could share your home Wi-Fi with your friends on Facebook but it quickly grew to be one of the largest Wi-Fi sharing companies.

Once you allow location access to the app, the app will show you free Wi-Fi in your area as well as the distance and performance of each spot. Instabridge also knows which spots do and don’t work and will automatically connect you with the ones they know work so they can keep you away from a poor experience of trying ones that don’t. 

Instabridge / I Like to Dabble

WiFiMap is another app that was built on the foundation of Wi-Fi sharing. The app is available for both IOS and Android and provides a map of free Wi-Fi spots, based on your location.

The app also provides free connectivity over VPN which is crucial to have when toying around with free public access over Wi-Fi. 

WiFiMap is the largest Wi-Fi sharing community with real-time updates, crowdsourced by real people, and has connected over 100,000,000 users worldwide. 

They bring a whole new meaning to the word “sharing economy“ and for completely free.

How cool is that?

WiFiMap / I Like to Dabble

Wifi Free Spot is a location directory that lists free Wi-Fi access points for anyone to use.

They offer listings by the state in the U.S. but also have the below regions and countries available in the listings:

  • Europe
  • Canada
  • Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America
  • The Middle East and Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia, New Zealand and The South Pacific

In addition to local free Wi-Fi spot listings, they also have specialized listings that include:

  • Large companies like Panera, Starbucks, and FedEx
  • Hotels, motels, and resorts
  • Vacation rental properties
  • RV parks and campgrounds

Wifi Free Spot / I Like to Dabble

If you are close enough with your neighbors, chances are you can get them to agree to share their Wi-Fi with you. It never hurts to ask.

You could also discuss with your neighbors who don’t have Wi-Fi or internet access in any way currently if they would be willing to go in on a plan with you. This won’t be exactly free but it would end up costing much less if split between two or more neighbors.

If you need internet access and don’t have a smartphone or the type of setup at home to be able to use the free services listed above, then turn to the local resources within your community.

Your public library is a great resource for free internet among many other free things they offer like books, DVDs, video games and more. Some libraries enforce time limits to use their Wi-Fi and computers, but others don’t.

We recommend you check with your local library on their specific terms of internet usage.


If you live in a bigger city or town, using municipal wireless networks might be an option for you. Municipal wireless networks are city-wide wireless networks that provide municipal broadband via Wi-Fi to large parts or all of a municipal area by deploying a wireless mesh network. 

Many government organizations have committed to providing free internet access to anyone and everyone who needs it. Even though they are typically used to connect businesses to governments, they are also extended to individuals depending on where you are at (and how “free” that access is).

For example: St. Cloud, Florida has free access for everyone, and its network is complete and running. However, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is much different where its network provides low-cost access for everyone in the city and discounted access for low-income families. 

26 U.S. states have restrictions against municipal broadband and you can check Wikipedia’s list of current municipal wireless networks to see if there is one in your area (or an area that you are planning to go to in the near future).

If your school district serves mostly low-income families, they may qualify to have free internet for their students to access in their homes. If your school district doesn’t currently offer this, there are some things you can do to get that kind of benefit moving.

Start by requesting a meeting with your district superintendent to discuss a program like this for your own school. 

With the current situation in the U.S. with “shelter in place” orders, schools have been closed without a clear date when they will reopen. Due to this, many schools are offering free resources to help their students succeed such as free pads, free laptops and free internet access for the interim.

Check with your local school district to see what your options are.

You can pick up free Wi-Fi signals with your own free, scrapped together, internet device. No sim card required.

This video was one of the easiest and straight forward tutorials we could find.

Michael Krinke

The obvious pro is that you save a ton of money monthly and yearly when being able to pull off free access to the internet. If saving money wasn’t even a thought because all you wanted was the option, free internet is the miracle you called for.

With free access to information, communities have more resources for learning, opportunity, growth, and a more fulfilling life.

But with every reward, there is a risk.

You should keep in mind that the quality of the internet may not be the same as premium paid services. As we saw in the options above, free options have a cap for how much data or hours you can use of it a month. When using public shared Wi-Fi spots, speed and security might also be sacrificed.


Let’s say you are able to get free internet at your home through a special program (and have a home private network), then you don’t have to worry about your private information spreading across public Wi-Fi. 

If the only way you can get free internet is through public Wi-Fi, then you need to be diligent about how you use that free public internet access.

Some steps you can take to make sure you are protecting yourself and your data are:

  • Make sure you are using secure websites (check for https:// and stay away from http://).
  • Protect your personal information with security software on your computer and other devices, using only websites you trust, don’t ever share information on websites like your social security number or bank account number, and never store your username and passwords on your browser (and remember to always log off when you are done using a website).
  • Avoid automatic connections (always). When you’re in public locations like the library and your setting is to automatically connect, that gives hackers a free for all access to your information while you’re there.
  • Stay away from file sharing. Never share files over public Wi-Fi. You might also want to check your file sync settings on your phone and make sure you only sync when on a private connection.
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network) to add an extra layer of protection. VPNs provide a barrier between your personal information and the internet by encrypting the data that moves in between the connection and your device. VPNs are also available for mobile devices and tablets. 


After reviewing the most popular requests concerning free internet, we’ve compiled these frequently asked questions.


Wi-Fi is a radio signal that is broadcasted out to your devices and the internet is on the other side of that signal. If your device can’t pick up the signal, it can’t reach the internet.

Yes. You can still connect to Wi-Fi without an internet service provider, but you won’t be able to actually get on the internet.

Yes, by using loop holes present on your network connection or ISP (internet service provider).

You can get free data through services like FreedomPop and NetZero, but they cap your free data at 200MB a month.


The ability to have access to free internet is amazing. It not only helps you save money but gives you free access to information and connects you with the rest of the world.

With that access to information, you have the opportunity to educate yourself more with the access to online learning, read important information about what is going on in the world to educate yourself and prepare for things, apply for jobs that you wouldn’t even know about, and find ways to create a more fulfilling life.

Knowledge is power, but only when used wisely. And you know what is cooler than knowledge? Safety. Well, maybe not cooler but it is just as important.

Use your ability to use free internet wisely and always watch your own back.

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originally appeared on 
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Featured Image Credit: Damir Khabirov / iStock.