Broadband throttling and capping explained

September 18th, 2020
Broadband

Today, it seems like there isn’t much we’re unable to do over the internet. We shop online, we work remotely and we keep in touch with what’s going on in the world, all thanks to our wireless mobile broadband connection. In a single household, it’s quite usual for one of the kids to be streaming a TV show on a laptop in one room, whilst at the same time Dad checks social media from his smartphone and Mum video calls Granny. The trouble is, the broadband signal that connects your home is also required to reach many other internet users, and it’s all reliant on your local cell tower. Demand is growing all the time, and that’s where throttling and capping come in. Both come under the banner of “traffic management,” and are used by some internet service providers as a tool to help keep everyone’s data flowing, rather than grinding to a halt during busy times.

If your web pages are taking a long time to load, or your video is buffering when you’d rather be watching it stream, these could be signs that you are being throttled. Capping, meanwhile, is the limiting of your downloading capabilities, usually after the amount of data agreed in your package has already been used up. Nowadays, it’s usual for providers to slow your wireless internet speeds if you exceed your agreed allowance of data (usually for a period of hours, until it’s considered to be an off-peak time of day), rather than charge you extra to continue downloading. Although you’ll usually be notified by email when you exceed your data allowance, it’s important to note that capping can be applied by your provider without giving you any warning.

Internet service providers can also decide to slow down internet access at peak times if overall network demand is high. These peak hours vary for different providers but can be found on their websites under their traffic management policy. If you think you might be being throttled or capped, this is your first port of call. It’s also easy to download and use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to check if you’re being throttled. Not all packages use throttling, however, so if your internet provider isn’t on the list but your wireless broadband is still slow, it might be time to have an engineer sent out.

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