Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Can I Find Out If My ISP Is Limiting My Download Speed? [Ask Lifehacker]

How Can I Find Out If My ISP Is Limiting My Download Speed?

How Can I Find Out If My ISP Is Limiting My Download Speed?

Dear Lifehacker,
Recently, I've felt that my download speeds have been a little uneven, and I'm starting to wonder if my ISP is limiting or throttling my downloads. How can I tell for sure?

Up for Downloading

Dear Up,
We've covered this topic once or twice in the past, but it never hurts to get a refresher. For that, let's turn to our pal Amit from Digital Inspiration:

The following is republished with permission from Digital Inspiration.

You have a fairly good Internet connection at home and regular web sites load pretty quickly in your browser. However, the speed seems to go down while you are watching videos on YouTube or are trying to download files through a torrent client.

If you observe such a speed pattern quite frequently, chances are that your ISP could be rate limiting your traffic for certain bandwidth intensive operations. To give you an example, if your regular download speed is 100 kB/s, YouTube videos could be streaming at a speed of 30 kB/s due to rate limiting by the ISP.

Is your ISP is limiting your download speeds?

You can run the Glasnost test in your browser to determine whether or not your ISP is following any such tactic to manipulate your download speeds for specific sites.

How Can I Find Out If My ISP Is Limiting My Download Speed?

The test uses a Java applet to compare your regular download speed against the speed at which Flash videos get streamed to your system. Other than videos, it can also compare the download speed for email attachments (via POP and IMAP), normal HTTP based file transfers, torrents, and binary downloads from Usenet servers.

You should consider running these tests at different times of the day since some ISPs may be limiting speeds only during peak hours. Also, do remember to stop any other downloads that might be running in the background for more accurate results.

Here are some additional tips on troubleshooting a slow connection.

Thanks Amit, and thanks for the question!


P.S. Have a preferred tool or method for checking to see if your connection's being throttled? Let's hear it in the comments.

Amit Agarwal is a personal technology columnist and founder of Digital Inspiration, one of the most widely read how-to blogs in the world.

The author of this post can be contacted at tips@lifehacker.com


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