Is Your ISP Slowing Down Your Netflix?

On my last trip to India, I discovered that my Internet Service Provider (ISP) was throttling Netflix traffic. Whether this was intentional or unintentional, I don’t know. But I needed to speed up my Netflix streams to prevent all that constant buffering and freezing.

Slowing down Netflix isn’t something new. ISPs in the US (AT&T, Verizon) have been throttling Netflix traffic for a while now. However, I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that our ISP in India, Tata Communications, was also slowing down Netflix streams.

How To Test If Your ISP Is Slowing Down Netflix

There are many reasons why an ISP would throttle Netflix traffic, and Netflix knows this. That’s why they built their own speedtest toolFast.com. The word on the grapevine is that many ISP gives preferential treatment to Ookla’s Speedtest, the most popular speed test tool on the internet. So, in order to look fast ISPs give traffic on Speedtest.net highest priority. This makes them look better than they really are.

However, when your ISP is throttling Netflix, those speeds don’t matter. In order to set the record straight, Netflix created it’s speed test tool that utilises its own network. If your ISP isn’t slowing down Netflix, then the results on Speedtest.net and Fast.com should be relatively the same.

Tata Communications promises us a speed of 16 Mbps. When I ran a few Speedtest.net tests, the results ranged between 20 Mbps and 12 Mbps. Seems alright, right?

The lowest Speedtest result
The lowest Speedtest result

But when I ran the tests on Fast.com, the fastest result that I got was a meagre 1.2 Mbps.

isp-netflix-throttle
Netflix Speed Test Result on Tata Communications

My immediate thought was – OK, maybe Netflix’s servers in Singapore (or wherever they are in South Asia) aren’t optimised for India or something. Probable theory. But then, I had to be doubly sure that it wasn’t my ISP that was slowing down Netflix.

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How To Stop Netflix From Buffering If Your ISP Is Throttling?

The way to check if your ISP is throttling your Netflix traffic is by using a VPN. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic so your ISP has no idea whether your on Netflix or any other site. I fired up my VPN (and connected to a server within India) and gave Fast.com another whirl. And behold the result below!!!

Netflix Speed Test Result Using A VPN
Netflix Speed Test Result Using A VPN

This was all the evidence that I needed.

My VPN actually made my Netflix stream faster! 

Now VPNs in general slow down your connection slightly due the encryption and what have you. But sometimes, like in this case, it makes it faster! My VPN boosted my Netflix connection by 7 times!!! That was incredible. The bump in speed was certainly visible while playing shows on Netflix too. No more pixalated Netflix!

Even if my ISP wasn’t blocking Netflix, it certainly wasn’t as fast as with a VPN. After all, you want less buffering and better quality while watching Netflix. At 1.2 Mbps, my Netflix streams were quite pixelated and useless.

Protip: When watching Netflix on your PC/laptop, always use IE/Edge or Safari. As crappy as these browsers maybe, they’re the only ones that support Netflix in 1080p.

Which VPN Still Works With Netflix?

For starters, mine still does.

Another awesome benefit of using a VPN with Netflix is gaining access to different country libraries. The battle between VPNs and Netflix is a fairly well known one. But I can guarantee you that there are VPNs still out there that are providing you access to different country libraries. This may not always be true, but there are a few VPNs that are withstanding the fight with Netflix.

Hope this post educated you on the dirty tricks that ISPs play these days to make themselves look good, all the while screwing your speeds where you really need it. Another reason to fight for net neutrality!

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