Slowed down: surfing at the snail’s pace is the horror scenario for our networked world. The download of the new console game breaks off, Netflix can no longer be accessed. This is what happens when the provider throttles the DSL connection. The Internet brake is familiar from mobile communications: once you have exhausted your monthly data volume, mobile streaming via the LTE network is over.
However, the data throttle looks strange when it comes to the Internet at home. So when do providers reduce the Internet speed? First of all, the all-clear is given: There are only very, very few providers who still resort to DSL throttling. The exception is during the Corona pandemic. To save the DSL and cable network from collapse, it wasn’t just the Internet providers who slowed down the speed. But more on that later.
What is DSL throttling?
Typically, DSL customers surf at least 16 megabits per second (Mbit/s) in their own homes. At peak times, DSL connections achieve a bandwidth of up to 250 Mbit/s. Users who access the Internet via cable or fiber optics can even reach speeds of up to one gigabit per second. When DSL is throttled, the provider reduces the Internet speed to a meager 1 to 2 Mbit/s. This makes video streaming or extensive downloads impossible. This means that video streaming or extensive downloads are a thing of the past. As in the mobile network, the throttling applies for the remaining duration of the billing month.
Data throttling is not something the providers peddle. In the rates for which it still applies, it can be found in the small print, i.e., in the general terms and conditions. There you will find information about the data volume used that triggers the Internet brake. You’ll also find information there about the speed to which the throttling applies. For the vast majority of DSL customers, this is irrelevant: Their contracts are not chained to a data throttle.
Which providers throttle the speed?
Among the major national providers Telekom, Vodafone, o2, and 1&1, there are only two that still include DSL throttling in their contracts. And o2 and 1&1 only apply it to one rate each – their lowest-priced DSL offers. In the My Home S rate with 16 Mbit/s, o2 reduces the bandwidth to 2 Mbit/s once the user has reached a data volume of 100 gigabytes. At the same limit, 1&1 also throttles the DSL speed of the Basic package to 1 Mbit/s.
Infrequent surfers who check their e-mails, book their vacation trip online, or read the news on their tablet will not notice any of this. They are certainly below the average data consumption. The Federal Network Agency put it at 112 gigabytes per month per connection for 2018. For those who continue to be among those Internet users who forgo streaming services and online games, DSL rates with built-in throttling are an inexpensive option. This is because their surfing behavior remains well below the national average.
Can I bypass the throttling?
The short answer is: no. If you have taken out a tariff with built-in DSL throttling, your provider will automatically reduce the surfing speed once the specified data volume has been reached. You have no influence on this. So there is no way to avoid DSL throttling.
If you want to surf without data throttling in the future, you need to change your rate plan. Until you have done this, there are a few tricks you can use to keep your data consumption under control:
Keep an eye on your data traffic via the router: Many DSL boxes offer this function. The router menu not only shows the data consumption of the computer but also records all devices connected via WLAN.
Identify the data guzzlers: Nowadays, we are constantly online. And so are some applications – especially on our smart devices. They run permanently in the background. For some, that may make sense. For many, it’s enough that they establish an Internet connection when you start the app. Therefore: Turn off the permanent connections.
Updates quickly pile up to a gigabyte tower. Therefore, disable automatic downloading. Also, limit the automatic search for updates to the most necessary ones, such as for the operating system, security, and your most important programs.
If you’re looking for a high-speed Internet connection without throttling, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in our DSL rates. It’s best to check right away which DSL speeds are available at your address!
DSL throttling in the Corona crisis
The German government imposed a lockdown on Germany in March 2020 to contain the spread of the Covid 19 virus. Locking it up in its own four walls had a huge impact on the Internet. Actually, not so much on the Internet as on the networks that carry the data. People worked in droves in home offices. Homeschooling took hold. Instead of going to the soccer stadium or the cinema, we spent our free time in front of the smart TV or playing PC games.
Many feared the collapse of the infrastructure. But it did not happen. The world’s largest Internet node, De-Cix in Frankfurt am Main, was relatively relaxed about the increase in data traffic. Likewise, network operators assured that the infrastructure was stable. The online services themselves got into more trouble, as they were not prepared for such a rapid increase in access numbers.
Users were sometimes unable to continue their online game: A large number of requests overloaded the servers. This was also the case for some providers of video conferencing tools such as Teams or Zoom. The number of video conferences jumped by more than 50 percent in the first few weeks of the lockdown.
Nevertheless, network operators and politicians had prepared for a throttling. The EU Commission paved the way for providers to reduce transmission rates at critical points or across the board if, contrary to expectations, the network was threatened with collapse. A precautionary EU regulation allows network operators to take “appropriate traffic management measures”.
The regulation overrides network neutrality, which applies throughout the EU. The requirement states all data packets traveling through Internet lines must be treated equally. The new regulation allows online services to be prioritized. Thus, in an emergency, home office applications would have priority over streaming services and online games.
However, online services also responded themselves: Streaming services such as Netflix or the video platform YouTube throttled the transmission rate on their own in order to put less strain on the networks. In other words, they reduced the picture quality. Users no longer streamed content in HD or UHD, but in SD resolution. This reduced the data stream per call enormously and thus relieved the data lines.
Throttling DSL speed yourself
Even those who use a DSL rate plan without throttling may be interested in controlling access to the Internet connection. Not necessarily to minimize their data consumption in principle. For some users, it is important that certain devices or applications in the WLAN have as much access as possible to the bandwidth that is available. For online gamers, for example, it is important not to be slowed down. Or if you juggle large amounts of data in your home office, you naturally want to transfer them reliably and quickly.
The best way to see which devices in your WLAN network consume which data volume is via the router menu. Among others, routers like the FritzBox show the data consumption broken down by the devices logged into the network. If your router does not have such an option, you can use Windows tools like TrafficMonitor and NetSpeedMonitor to keep an eye on your data traffic. However, they only look at the computer. Smartphones, tablets, and SmartTV are not monitored. However, you can reduce data consumption.
How to reduce your data consumption
In the router menu of the FritzBox, for example, you can specify which applications are allowed to use a higher bandwidth. The option can be found in the menu under Internet/Filters/Prioritization. In this way, you determine which device in the network will always use a stable Internet connection, even if other devices are also accessing the line.
On all devices, check which programs are constantly exchanging data in the background. Turn off those that you don’t use regularly.
Candidates for high consumption are cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive. Turn off automatic synchronization and allow it only when needed.
On the computer, it’s a good idea to clean up the autostart. Programs that don’t always have to run don’t have to start automatically and check for updates.
Do you regularly post photos and videos on social networks? This can also have a significant impact on your data consumption. Since a resolution of more than 72 ppi is unnecessary for viewing images on the screen, it is advisable to compress images and videos before uploading them. You will only save a small amount of data volume each time you do this. Considered over the total amount, the old farmer’s truism applies: Even small livestock makes crap.
And if you stream music or videos, you’ll reduce your data consumption if you choose to stream them in a lower resolution.
If you’re still thinking about upgrading your DSL connection, you’ll probably have to change your tariff.
Do you want more bandwidth? But you don’t have it at home? Maybe the Hybrid LTE option from Deutsche Telekom is the solution for you. A hybrid router uses the data rate of the wired Internet connection and the mobile network at the same time. This gives you more speed when surfing and streaming.
Does DSL throttling still make sense?
The network operators provide the answer: DSL throttling is largely a thing of the past. This is their response to users’ growing hunger for data. It is a consequence of digitization. We are doing more and more online: We store online, stream TV programs or sports broadcasts, download music or the new game for the Playstation, we Skype for hours with family and friends around the globe.
The Internet is bringing the world closer together. This has its price: we consume more data. Vodafone, for example, has calculated that its customers consume an average of seven gigabytes of data. Per day, mind you. One episode of a Netflix series alone costs one gigabyte. So our data consumption piles up to 112 gigabytes per connection and month. And that’s the figure for 2018 published by the German Federal Network Agency in its annual report. And the trend is rising. The figures clearly show that throttled Internet is no longer in keeping with the times.