Broadband connections tend to under perform from time to time. It might be due to a temporary maintenance period or your service provider might be suffering from infrastructure problems. The most obvious signs of either issue are slow download speeds. These problems will affect even basic internet browsing and a simple, text heavy website like Wikipedia may take a long time to load. These are of course rare occurrences but that doesn’t mean you’re always getting the internet speed that your ISP has promised you. For all you know, you might have been downgraded to a lower speed because your ISP changed your data plan.
In other cases, your ISP may just be throttling your connection, or placing caps on your speed around certain times of the day. To figure out what’s going on with your internet speed, you need to check it. Checking your internet speed is a fairly simple process but if you’re going about it to figure out if you’re being throttled what you’re essentially trying to do is catch your ISP in a lie.
Test Internet Speed
There are countless apps out there that can test your internet speed. Google has a speed test feature built into search, and SpeedTest is another popular tool for testing your internet speed. Most ISPs will also have their very own tool for testing your internet speed. You want to first use that particular tool to test your connection. It’s a good idea to test it at different times of the day. For extra precision, check your speed on a Friday or Saturday night. Those are times when your ISP will likely experience heavy traffic from most customers and that’s when your speed is most likely to suffer.
Your ISPs Speed Test Tool
You may need to dig around your ISP’s official website, or any user or admin panel they provide for customers on their site to locate their speed test tool. If you can’t find it, ask a customer care representative. Use this tool and log the internet speed it measures during peak hours, and normal hours. If your data plan provides different download speeds depending on the time of the day, make sure you test each time slot. Measure for at least two or three days.
Independent Speed Test Tools
We mentioned earlier that there are a lot of tools that let you test your internet speed but if you want to prove to your ISP that you aren’t getting the speed you’re paying for you’re going to need to use a tool that it will accept the results of. This is why using the ISP’s own tool is important. It lets you check for discrepancies and check if the ISP’s tool is measuring the speed incorrectly. If the ISP’s own tool shows that you’re not getting the right speed, it will be easier to get your ISP to resolve it.
SpeedTest.net and Google are two speed test tools that most, if not all, ISPs will accept the results of. Use these tools before or right after you use your ISP’s speed test tool.
Test Set Up
You can use most speed test tools on either a desktop or a mobile device but using a desktop is a good idea in case your phone is running services in the background that require internet access. Make sure that at the time of the test, you only have one device using the connection. Make sure you have no downloads in progress, you’re not streaming anything, and no OS services are using the bandwidth.
When you run the test, allow the tool to fully load before you begin the test. If the page/tool is still loading when you start the test, it will impact the results. For each instance that you run a test, run at least two.
Test Specific Content Speed
Some ISPs throttle internet speeds if you access specific content. For example, video streaming and music streaming requires far more bandwidth and ISPs limit your connection when you access services like Netflix and Hulu. If your internet speed test results are fine i.e. you’re getting your advertised speed, but Netflix and Hulu are stuttering, there’s a good possibility that your ISP is throttling these websites.
For Netflix, you can use Netflix’s tool called Fast to check if the website is being throttled. Even if you don’t use Netflix, an ISP that’s throttling Netflix will likely throttle Hulu.
What To Do?
You can call your ISP, ask to speak to a manager, and maybe threaten to cancel service but you get mixed results with that approach. Contact them and let them know that service is slow, and ask them specifically about their throttling practices. If there’s been a change in data plan structure there isn’t much you can do accept upgrade or switch to a different ISP.
Your ISP might look into the problem or they may have you run around in circles and never do anything about it. In this case, you have one solution; switch to a different service provider.