You might not think to blame your internet provider when you’re staring at a buffering wheel. After all, there’s a lot that could be going wrong — like an outdated router or a less-than-ideal router location. You might be able to solve slow speeds with an easy fix, like upgrading to a mesh network (which also has to be set up in the right spot) or simply restarting your modem and router. But if you’ve already attempted these tried-and-true methods and your internet speeds are still subpar, the issue might be something your internet service provider is intentionally doing: bandwidth throttling.
Yes, you read that right. Your ISP could be making your Wi-Fi slower on purpose. Because of a 2019 Supreme Court decision in which the court declined to hear an appeal on net neutrality, ISPs can still legally stifle your internet, limiting your broadband if you stream more TV than they want and serving slower connections to websites owned by their competitors. President Joe Biden signed an executive order in 2021 urging the Federal Communications Commission to restore net neutrality rules that banned throttling, but the practice is still legal.
One solution to slow Wi-Fi (if it’s caused by internet throttling) is a virtual private network. Basically, ISPs need to see your IP address to slow down your internet, and a good VPN will shield that identity — though this comes with some limitations and downsides, which I’ll discuss below. We’ll walk you through how to tell if throttling is to blame and, if not, what to do about fixing your crummy Wi-Fi. (You can also learn more about how to get free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.)