Suppose that after a long, tiring and hectic week, you were looking forward to spending the weekend relaxing by watching a new web series or online movie. However, when you settled down to watch, you noticed an unexpected outage in the form of buffering or a significant drop in download speed. This interruption caused the video to freeze in between.
It is possible that you have fallen victim to network throttling.
What is network throttling?
Network throttling is a practice used by internet service providers (ISP) or local network administratorsto intentionally slow down your Internet access speed. It can occur due to various factors including network traffic congestion, high user activity during peak hours, or excessive use of certain services such as torrent sites. It is typically observed in crowded areas with audiences WiFi networkssuch as schools, hotels and airports.
When multiple devices are connected to the same local area network (LAN), it can overload availability bandwidth and result in a reduction in Internet speed or the implementation of throttling measures. This can negatively impact a significant portion of the target user base accessing a particular website or online service.
How to detect network throttling?
If you notice slow internet browsing, slow upload and download speeds, high latency in online games, and buffering in online music or video streaming, it could indicate a slow network.
Network throttling can be detected in two ways:
- Using the network activity tool
Most browsers come with built-in network activity tools that allow users to inspect network requests and identify if their network is being throttled. These tools, often found in browser developer tools, provide features such as network throttling. By testing apps or websites with a slow network setting, users can discover and fix problems related to loading times.
- Internet speed check with and without VPN
Another method involves using an internet speed test website to measure your network speed both with and without a VPN service turned on. If your network speed is significantly higher when using the VPN than your original speed, it suggests that your network bandwidth may be throttling.
Why do ISPs do network throttling?
ISPs throttle the network for various reasons. Here are some common reasons:
- User protection and network traffic control
ISPs can implement network throttling to protect their users from accessing malicious or malicious websites. By limiting the speed or access to certain sites, ISPs aim to improve online security and protect users from potential threats.
- Prices for packages and tiered services
ISPs often offer different packages with varying speeds and data limits. Users who subscribe to more expensive packages typically receive faster Internet speeds, while those with lower-cost packages may experience network throttling to manage bandwidth allocation and ensure fair usage among customers.
- Data Limits and Usage Limits
ISPs can enforce network throttling when users exceed their monthly data limits or assigned bandwidth limits. This helps regulate data usage and prevents excessive usage that could strain network capacity.
- Reduce network congestion
During peak hours or when there is heavy user activity, network congestion can occur, leading to slower Internet speeds for all users. To mitigate congestion and maintain a consistent level of service for everyone, ISPs can use network throttling techniques.
How to avoid network throttling?
To mitigate the impact of network throttling, you can consider the following approaches:
- Use aVPN service: Using a reliable VPN service can help encrypt your online activity and protect it from being tracked by your ISP.
- Use a proxy server: Proxy servers can act as intermediaries between your device and the websites you access, hiding yours IP address and website history from your ISP.
- Upgrade your internet package: Upgrading to a higher tier Internet package that offers higher bandwidth can help resolve network throttling issues.
- Consider switching ISPs: If the network throttling persists despite trying other measures, exploring alternative ISPs that offer better service and more favorable network management practices may be a viable option.
What is network prioritization?
Network prioritization occurs when an ISP assigns different levels of importance to different types of Internet traffic. This means that some types of traffic, such as voice or video calls, are given higher priority and receive faster speeds than less critical traffic such as emails or heavy downloads.
By prioritizing specific types of traffic, ISPs can ensure that essential services operate smoothly even during times of high Internet traffic or congestion. However, it’s worth noting that ISPs may charge extra for providing this priority or “quality of service” (QoS) feature to customers.
How is network prioritization done?
ISPs use various methods to manage network traffic and one popular method is QoS. With QoS, ISPs prioritize certain types of network traffic over others, giving more importance and priority to traffic involving voice-video calls and online gaming, over traffic associated with heavy downloads or email services.
This prioritization is sometimes referred to as a Class of Service (CoS), as traffic is classified into high, medium, and low priority. Low priority traffic may experience higher packet loss rates. Email services and web traffic are typically considered low priority categories.
It is important to note that CoS is a subset of QoS, so the two terms should not be confused. QoS encompasses a broader range of techniques and mechanisms for managing network traffic, while CoS focuses specifically on classifying and prioritizing traffic based on its importance.
Besides QoS and CoS, prioritization techniques are also used by multi-protocol routers to classify the protocols running within the network.
In a shared LAN infrastructure using traditional Ethernet technology, nodes or terminals compete for access to the network on a first-come, first-served basis. When multiple nodes try to access the network at the same time, they collide and are put on hold.
Switched Ethernet improves this situation by providing dedicated connections between nodes and switch ports. Switches use data frames that include MAC addresses to facilitate efficient traffic forwarding.
The IEEE has developed a method for embedding a tag in the MAC layer frame, which contains the bits that define the CoS for the frame. This tagging scheme allocates three bits within an Ethernet frame to identify and differentiate class of service. It helps prioritize certain types of traffic and allows for better management of network resources.
Token ring networks, another type of LAN technology, use a prioritization method in which the tokens contain a reservation bit that indicates priority. This allows nodes to indicate their priority level when accessing the network through the token passing mechanism.
The IEEE 802.1Q standard defines a frame tag scheme that allows a tag to be inserted into an IEEE MAC layer frame. This tag is used to indicate that the frame belongs to a specific virtual LAN (VLAN). Enables logical segmentation of networks into multiple VLANs, enabling better network management and traffic control.
The VLAN tag includes three bits specifically dedicated to specifying the priority level of the frame. These three bits offer eight different priority levels, allowing for differentiation of frames based on their class of service or importance.
- Network layer priority
The IP packet header contains a section known as the ToS (Type of Service). This field was recently adopted to work in conjunction with the IETF’s Differentiated Services (Diff-Serv) method. Diff-Serv involves categorizing and marking packages.
According to the policy, network devices configure and read the ToS bit. Since IP is a network protocol, Diff-Serv is applicable on various networks, including the networks of the service providers that support the service. Enables support of CoS on the Internet, extranet and intranet.
Also, there is an option for paid priority. In this approach, content providers pay ISPs for faster delivery of content to their customers. Also, customers who pay higher rates to their ISP may receive higher priority than other network traffic.
How to escape network prioritization?
Running a speed test can actually provide valuable insight into the performance of an internet connection. If certain websites or apps consistently run faster than others within the same network, it could indicate network prioritization by the ISP.
Anyone can use any network monitoring tool or website to check the status and speed of your Internet connection over time. A substantial difference in network speed between websites and apps indicates network priority.
If an individual is dissatisfied with the network prioritization implemented by their ISP, they have two options:
- Change ISP
- Filing a complaint
The bottom line
ISPs and network administrators use various methods to manage network traffic, including network throttling and network prioritization.
Network throttling involves intentionally reducing the speed of the bandwidth of the network for a certain period. It is often used to address network congestion or allocate resources fairly among users. By temporarily slowing down the network, ISPs can avoid excessive strain and maintain a reasonable level of service.
Network prioritization, on the other hand, assigns different levels of importance or priorities to specific types of traffic. This allows essential services, such as voice or video calls, to receive preferential treatment and faster speeds than less time-sensitive traffic. Network prioritization aims to ensure the proper functioning of critical applications even during periods of high network congestion.
Understanding these network speed control strategies can help you manage the effects of network throttling and prioritization.
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