How to Stop AT&T Throttling Bandwidth: 2024 Workaround
AT&T is notorious for throttling internet bandwidth, either on your mobile or at home. Like many internet providers, the world’s largest telecom company will temporarily slow users’ speeds to manage congestion. It was even sued by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 for throttling customers on its Unlimited mobile plans when they reached a hidden data cap.
There are multiple ways to counter AT&T’s bandwidth throttling. Because it uses your IP address and data to determine whether to slow your connection, masking your IP and encrypting your data can solve the issue. You can also upgrade your plan or contact AT&T’s customer support.
Short on Time? Here Are the Best Solutions to Stop AT&T Throttling in 2024
- Use a VPN. This simple app allows you to use a different IP address and mask your traffic so your ISP (internet service provider) can’t see what you’re doing online. This stops AT&T from slowing you down based on your activities.
- Contact AT&T customer support. An AT&T support agent can directly address and potentially resolve issues related to throttling. But they’ll only be able to tell you why you’re being throttled. They won’t be able to prevent any slowdowns on your connection.
- Upgrade your plan. Your connection will be slowed down if you go above your plan’s data cap. If you use a lot of data, consider upgrading your plan. However, even on the most expensive plan, AT&T may still throttle your bandwidth if the network is busy.
Pro Tip: Use a VPN to Stop (Some) AT&T Throttling
After trying different options, the most reliable solution I found to stop the worst of AT&T’s throttling was using a VPN. With a VPN, I could change my IP address and encrypt my connection. This meant AT&T couldn’t discriminate against particular types of internet traffic — like live streaming, downloading large files, and gaming in high definition.
Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect fix. AT&T still throttled my connection when I went over my data cap. Even the unlimited plans have soft caps that result in slower speeds when you reach them. No VPN will prevent this from happening completely, so if this happens regularly, consider upgrading your plan.
3 Best Ways to Stop AT&T Throttling
Use a VPN
AT&T uses your IP address to track your internet activities and determine if you're streaming or torrenting frequently. But a VPN lets you use a different IP address and encrypt your traffic so the ISP can’t see what websites and services you’re using. This reduces the chances of being throttled because you’re streaming, torrenting, or gaming a lot.
Note that due to encryption, VPNs also naturally slow down your speeds. However, it depends on the VPN if this slowdown will be noticeable or not. But if your ISP throttles your speeds when you're doing data-intensive tasks, using a VPN can help you avoid that. So even though this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, it helps in certain throttling cases.
All of this also means a VPN provides an added layer of security against other threats on the web. Because other users can’t get a hold of your real IP address, it protects you online, no matter whether you're streaming, gaming, torrenting, or just browsing. Plus, if you use an AT&T Unlimited plan on your mobile devices, a VPN can protect you just as well when you’re on the go since most VPN services offer mobile apps.
Contact AT&T Customer Support
Reaching out to AT&T's customer support can be a direct way to address the throttling issue. They might provide a solution, an explanation, or even adjust some settings to enhance your connection quality.
Moreover, there are times when throttling might result from an overlooked issue or error. A simple conversation with customer support might rectify the situation and restore your speed.
Just bear in mind that customer support won’t be able to stop your connection from being throttled based on how much data you’re using or whether the network’s busy. But, contacting customer support is a free option that could minimize how much throttling you experience.
Upgrade Your Plan
AT&T's higher-tier plans generally offer larger bandwidth caps. If you often hit your current plan's limits (and are throttled as a result), upgrading is the best way to minimize your throttling.
Once again, this won’t stop your connection from being slowed at peak times. AT&T may still throttle your connection and discriminate against certain types of traffic. However, you won’t have to worry about rationing your data usage to avoid the end-of-the-month speed slump.
Why Does AT&T Throttle Your Speeds?
Like many service providers, AT&T can throttle internet speeds under certain conditions. While it might seem random, there are specific reasons behind these actions. Understanding these can help you better navigate your internet experience.
- Overcrowded networks. The primary reason AT&T throttles is due to network congestion at peak times or during popular events. To ensure adequate bandwidth for everyone, the ISP limits speeds if you’re doing data-intensive activities like streaming, torrenting, or online gaming.
- Data cap limits. Even the unlimited mobile plans have a soft cap. You can go over this cap, but AT&T will throttle your speeds. When you've almost reached your data cap, AT&T will send you a text notification, allowing you to monitor and manage your usage to prevent connection slowdowns.
- Limited net neutrality. Changes in regulations and the rolling back of net neutrality provisions have given ISPs, including AT&T, more leeway in managing and prioritizing different types of internet traffic. This can lead to throttling, especially if they perceive certain traffic as not being in their best interest or that of their partnerships.
- Data deprioritization. AT&T may lower video streaming to SD quality when it detects video content. It also sometimes restricts data from certain areas and sources due to security concerns, like torrenting or online gaming.
- Illegal activities. If AT&T detects users engaging in potentially unauthorized activities, it may limit their connection speed. The ISP does this to discourage behaviors that are against its terms of service and potentially harmful. So, even when you’re torrenting files from the public domain, AT&T may slow your speeds because they can’t tell that you’re downloading content legally.
How to Check if AT&T Is Throttling Your Bandwidth
It's essential to know if your internet provider is limiting your speeds, especially when you're paying for a certain bandwidth. If you suspect your bandwidth is being throttled by AT&T, follow these steps:
- Review your AT&T contract. This will inform you of the expected speeds and any data limits.
- Check your data cap. This will rule out any throttling due to excessive data use.
- Conduct a speed test using your regular ISP connection. I suggest using a reliable online tool for precise results, like speedtest.net. If the results are significantly lower than your contract's stated speed, throttling might be the cause.
- Get a VPN. Subscribe to a trustworthy VPN and connect to a nearby server, as this will yield the quickest and most accurate results.
- Perform another speed test while connected to the VPN. A reliable VPN will help stop some of the throttling. Make sure you test while running all of the same programs that were open for your first test so you’ve got a clear comparison.
- Compare both results. If your connection is noticeably faster with the VPN, AT&T is probably throttling your speeds.
- Take notes and repeat. I recommend saving a screenshot of each speed test, including information like the time of day you tested and what you were doing at the time. This will help you to see if AT&T starts throttling you if you’re using certain websites or services.
How to Safely Increase Speeds While Using the AT&T Network
Don’t worry — you don’t always need to open your wallet to improve your AT&T speeds. Here are a few free ways you can minimize the effect of AT&T throttling so you can still browse, stream, and torrent to your heart’s content.
- Change your router’s location. This is particularly important in older buildings with thicker walls that could block or slow your WiFi connection. Or, if you’ve got the budget, consider adding WiFi gateways or extenders to your network.
- Use wired ethernet connections. Wired connections are almost always faster than WiFi, and this frees up wireless bandwidth for other devices.
- Update your devices. This includes your router and any other networking devices you use. Running the most recent version of your device’s firmware, operating systems, and drivers can help you optimize the connection speeds.
- Minimize background data use. Close any browser tabs you’re not using. Make sure you quit apps when you’re done with them — most apps still run in the background when you click the close button. You can usually turn off or limit how much data apps can use in the background in your device’s settings.
- Turn off unused devices. This frees up bandwidth for your other devices. If you’ve got a lot of gadgets in your household, this can significantly improve your speeds.
You should also run a regular antivirus scan to protect your devices from malware. Certain types of malware can use up your bandwidth by sending large amounts of data outside your network. This might be personal information from your device. Or, your device might be turned into a “bot” and used for a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack without your knowledge.
Best VPNs to Stop AT&T Throttling in 2024
- ExpressVPN — It has robust security and privacy features to easily stop AT&T throttling. It also comes with unlimited bandwidth and consistently fast speeds.
- CyberGhost — It comes with an extensive server network spanning 100 countries, so you have many options to choose from for a new IP address.
- Private Internet Access — It offers unlimited simultaneous connections, so you can use it with all your devices that are on the AT&T network.
FAQs on How to Stop AT&T Throttling
How can I tell if AT&T is throttling my bandwidth?
The first step is to check if you’ve gone over any data caps, which most AT&T contracts have. If you’ve exceeded your limit, then AT&T will slow your bandwidth. From there, measure your actual speeds and compare them to what’s written in your contract.
You can easily check for throttling using an online speed testing tool. If you notice a significant speed drop (more than 30%) when streaming or torrenting, AT&T might be intentionally reducing your bandwidth.
Is it legal for AT&T to throttle my bandwidth?
Yes, AT&T is legally permitted to throttle your bandwidth. The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) under the Trump Administration repealed the Open Internet Order (net neutrality rules), which mandated ISPs in the US to treat all traffic equally. So, AT&T can reduce your bandwidth or discriminate against certain data sources, especially if its network is under strain.
What was the settlement of the AT&T throttling lawsuit?
AT&T settled a throttling lawsuit by agreeing to customers on the unlimited data plans for a total sum of $60 million. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had accused AT&T of misleading customers of unlimited data plans by throttling their speeds after using a certain amount of data. It claimed that these reduced speeds made many standard activities, such as web browsing and video streaming, challenging or even unfeasible.
While AT&T never admitted this, they chose to settle outside of court and reimburse current and past customers. To qualify for a refund, you must have been subscribed to AT&T's unlimited data plan between October 1, 2011, and June 30, 2015. So, the deadline for claiming a refund has passed.
Why is my AT&T connection so slow at peak times?
Your AT&T connection might be slow during peak times due to network congestion. At peak times (like during the Superbowl or after work), there’s a higher demand on the network. As more people stream, download, and browse, AT&T reduces your bandwidth to make sure there’s enough available for every user. But there are some ways to stop some AT&T throttling and increase your speeds.
What are the other ways to increase my AT&T connection speed at home?
There are several things you can do if your internet connection is slow. Here are some of the most effective ways you can try:
- Regularly update your router. Keeping the firmware current can optimize performance.
- Position your router correctly. Ensure nothing blocks the wireless signal, and consider repositioning it for a stronger connection.
- Upgrade to a router with the latest WiFi protocols. Modern routers can offer better speed and coverage.
- Turn off and disconnect unused devices. Reducing the number of active devices can prevent network congestion at home.
- Use an ethernet cable. Wired connections often provide more stable and faster speeds.
- Restart your router. This can refresh your connection and resolve minor network glitches.
Does AT&T throttle fiber internet?
Yes, AT&T can throttle your fiber internet connection. While fiber internet is renowned for its high-speed capabilities, no connection is entirely free from potential throttling. Every AT&T plan will be subject to throttling as a result of network congestion, data caps, your online activity, and more.
Does AT&T throttle cellular data?
Yes, AT&T throttles mobile data similarly to how it throttles home internet. Your speeds and bandwidth might be reduced if you exceed your data limit (even on unlimited plans) or during peak times to manage network congestion. You may also be throttled if you stream, torrent, or play online games on your mobile devices for longer periods.
How can I bypass AT&T hotspot and mobile data throttling?
There are several methods to prevent AT&T’s throttling, but one of the easiest ways is using a VPN. It encrypts your data, making it harder for AT&T to throttle based on your online activity. It's a useful tool, but remember that AT&T may still throttle due to data cap limits and overall data usage.
You can also upgrade to a higher-tier plan, so you’ve got a higher data limit. Alternatively, reach out to customer support — there may be a technical issue that’s limiting your mobile speeds.
Can I use a free VPN to bypass ISP throttling?
You can’t fully bypass ISP throttling, and free VPNs aren’t as reliable as premium ones. Most free VPNs have very slow speeds, which may drop your speeds even more than your ISP already does. Some also come bundled with malicious malware that could risk your safety and privacy. It’s far better to get a low-cost VPN with a trustworthy money-back guarantee to get around AT&T’s throttling.
Besides, many free VPNs make their money selling your data to ad networks. Some also have strict limitations on specific kinds of traffic, especially P2P.
Do all ISPs throttle bandwidth?
Most ISPs throttle your bandwidth. There are many reasons why your ISP might restrict your data. For example, AT&T will throttle data to reduce network congestion and to ensure that all users have adequate bandwidth for their normal online activities.
Bandwidth throttling occurs when AT&T intentionally slows down your speeds. It mainly happens at peak times when everyone is home and online. AT&T reduces your bandwidth on unlimited plans once you hit a soft data cap. In addition, it’ll throttle speeds on data-heavy connections, such as torrenting, gaming, or streaming.
You can prevent activity-based throttling by changing your IP address and encrypting your data with a VPN. This allows you to carry out your online activities, like streaming and torrenting, without AT&T detecting and slowing you down. However, if you have exceeded your data cap limit, upgrading your AT&T plan or purchasing more data might do the trick.
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