September 23, 2015

When you’re online you want to browse, stream and download at maximum speed and without interruption. Yet all too often you find your Internet connection is slow. It’s not the speed you want, nor what you’ve signed up and paid for. A look at streaming speeds around the world reveals that speeds for video services, and Netflix in particular, are bad. Streaming speeds in Asia Pacific are inconsistent, for example, with some countries experiencing speeds well below the global average.

There are two ways your ISP can slow you down: throttling and peering agreements.


Throttling is when your ISP chooses to slow down (throttle) your Internet connection, based on your Internet activity.

How do they do it? ISPs often use deep packet inspection (DPI) servers to inspect your Internet traffic so they can identify what traffic they want to slow down or restrict. If you’re watching “too much” content or using a service that competes with something the ISP also offers (i.e., Netflix or HBO GO, which are often substitutes for video directly offered by the ISP), your ISP may decide it’s time to slow down your Internet connection. DPI has obvious privacy implications, as your ISP is inspecting your online activity (the sites you visit, shows you watch). Despite these risks, ISPs frequently use DPI to monitor Internet traffic and throttle user connections.

Why do they do it? ISPs throttle intentionally, because they don’t want to make the investments in their network to deliver the speeds they promise customers or to handicap competing “over the top” products. Even if you have “unlimited” or high bandwidth, if you’re using “too much” or the “wrong kind” of data the ISP may decide to throttle your connection and limit your usage. Throttling is particularly popular in regions of the world where ISP is in a monopoly or duopoly situation and doesn’t have much competition in the marketplace.  Because users don’t have a viable option to switch ISPs, the ISP can reduce speeds without meaningful repercussion.

Peering Agreements – Intentionally Ignoring Congestion

Peering occurs when two ISPs connect and exchange traffic over their networks, and intentionally ignore network congestion.

How do they do it? The ISPs utilize each others’ networks to deliver content to users in the fastest manner possible, and a peering agreement generally dictates that traffic sent between the two networks maintains a ratio that both parties agree on. Since networks have large capacity, congestion rarely occurs and does so in a small number of locations – usually when the ISPs “interconnect with some last mile ISPs like Verizon.”

However, ISPs choose to intentionally ignore the congestion issues on their networks. As explained by Techdirt, it’s easy to clear up the congestion but ISPs choose not to:

Verizon, Comcast and AT&T have deliberately made the decision not to make rather basic and inexpensive upgrades to their interconnection points that would solve the congestion problems with Netflix.” 

Source: Level3 Proves That Verizon Is Absolutely To Blame For Netflix Congestion… Using Verizon’s Own Blog Post

To learn more about Peering agreements, please check out our infographic “Netflix vs. Comcast – The Peering Problem

Why do they do it? When the ISP sells broadband and other services like their own sponsored video or streaming music, “over the top” alternatives become competitors. They intentionally ignore (and sometimes purposefully cause) congestion to degrade performance of the competing service. They can also require the service (i.e. Netflix) to pay them for facilitating the bandwidth needed to avoid congestion even though the user has already paid them for uncongested service.

Level 3 (a telecommunications company) illustrates that congestion occurs when the ISP’s content business is threatened by content providers, such as Netflix:

“The bit that is congested is the place where the Level 3 and Verizon networks interconnect. Level 3’s network interconnects with Verizon’s in ten cities; three in Europe and seven in the United States. The aggregate utilization of those interconnections in Europe on July 8, 2014 was 18% (a region where Verizon does NOT sell broadband to its customers). The utilization of those interconnections in the United States (where Verizon sells broadband to its customers and sees Level 3 and online video providers such as Netflix as competitors to its own CDN and pay TV businesses) was about 100%.”

Source: Verizon’s Accidental Mea Culpa

How to Improve Streaming Speeds

Using a VPN, like VyprVPN, increases your streaming speeds. When you encrypt your connection your ISP cannot see your traffic or what you’re doing online, so it’s much harder for them to throttle your connection based on your activity. With VyprVPN you can achieve significantly faster speeds when streaming content. With VyprVPN you can stream at maximum speed, with less risk of buffering and slow, pixelated connections.

Golden Frog is the only VPN provider that runs its own network, which means we own and operate the network hardware. We are continually upgrading our network, working on new peering agreements that favor the user and buying additional bandwidth across the world. Unlike the duopoly or monopoly ISP business, the VPN industry is highly competitive and we work hard to deliver the fastest speeds possible, including streaming speeds. Replace your ISP with VyprVPN and never worry about throttling or peering agreements again.

Additional Reading

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