Christian M. 7 min read

Avoiding business broadband throttling

Experiencing bandwidth throttling can be frustrating, impacting your employees’ productivity and affecting the quality of your online services.

But don’t fret; this article provides practical tools for identifying throttling and different ways to mitigate it. Not to mention that businesses are already very unlikely to suffer from throttling as their traffic takes priority over domestic use.

💡 Key takeaways:

What is bandwidth throttling?

Bandwidth throttling is the intentional reduction of broadband speed by a business broadband provider to ensure a good and fair service, especially during network congestion.

Throttling typically targets the heaviest types of traffic first, such as video streaming, torrenting or transferring large files. In extreme cases, such as unusually high traffic or during network maintenance work, your entire broadband bandwidth can be throttled, irrespective of your activities.

Throttling is uncommon in businesses because business traffic is prioritised over domestic traffic. Also, the vast majority of commercial online activity happens during business hours, which are outside high-traffic times (7 a.m.—9 a.m. and 7 p.m.—11 p.m.).

💡 Uncompetitive behaviours: Some concerns have been raised regarding throttling competitor’s services to get an unfair advantage, or to take on more users without having to upgrade the network. Ofcom is in charge of enforcing transparency and fair-market regulations against any providers acting non-competitively.

Why do business broadband providers use bandwidth throttling?

Besides customer services and marketing, throttling is another strategic tool available to providers to gain an each against competitors. Those with the most effective throttling (i.e., achieving the best bandwidth distribution among their customers) will be perceived as providing superior service, even when most providers are in fact using the same underlying infrastructure (e.g., Openreach or KCOM).

This being said the following table gives more detail by providing how throttling can be used in specific scenarios:

Network congestion managementThrottling helps manage network traffic and reduce congestion during peak usage times.
Fair usage policiesEnsuring all users get fair access to the network by preventing heavy users from consuming excessive bandwidth.
Cost managemnetReducing operational costs by limiting the amount of bandwidth each user can consume.
Quality of Service (QoS)Prioritising critical business applications over less critical ones to maintain performance.
Contractual agreementsEnforcing terms of service agreements that include bandwidth limitations.
Prevention of network abusePreventing activities that can harm the network, such as excessive downloading, streaming, or illegal activities.
Data caps enforcementEnforcing data caps set in service plans to avoid overuse and additional charges.
Security measuresProtecting the network from malicious activities by limiting the bandwidth available to potential threats.
Maintenance and upgradesThrottling during scheduled maintenance or upgrades to minimise disruption.
Regulatory complianceComplying with regulations that require managing network traffic in specific ways.
ISP traffic management strategiesImplementing internal strategies for optimising the performance and reliability of the network.
Load balancingAllocating bandwidth resources more efficiently across various users and applications.

Impacts of throttling on business operations

On rare occasions businesses must be throttled, causing disruption to its operations. This is especially burdensome for businesses that rely heavily on broadband stability, such as e-commerce sites and supply chain coordinators. Here are details on the different impacts:

Productivity lossThrottling can lead to slower internet speeds, causing delays in communication, data transfer, and access to cloud-based applications. This directly impacts employee productivity.
Workflow disruptionsActivities dependent on real-time data access and processing can be severely disrupted, affecting workflow continuity and efficiency.
Service qualityFor businesses offering online services or platforms, throttling can degrade the user experience, leading to slower load times, buffering, and unresponsive applications. This can result in customer dissatisfaction and loss of loyalty.
Customer supportThrottled connections can slow down customer support responses, leading to longer resolution times and decreased customer satisfaction.
Increased costsBusinesses may incur additional costs to mitigate throttling effects, such as investing in higher-tier business broadband contracts, additional bandwidth, or alternative connectivity solutions, such as leased-lines.
Innovation stagnationSlower internet speeds can hinder the ability to adopt and integrate new technologies, leading to a lag in innovation and adaptation to market trends.
Data transfer delaysThrottling can slow down the backup and transfer of critical business data, impacting data integrity and recovery processes.
Security vulnerabilitiesProlonged data transfers might expose sensitive information to potential cyber security threats, as longer transfer times increase the window of opportunity for cyber-attacks.
Remote work challengesThrottling can severely impact remote workers who rely on stable and fast internet connections for video conferencing, collaboration tools, and accessing company networks.

Throttling regulations

Regulations targeting throttling are based on the Net Neutrality principle, which was introduced alongside EU law in 2015. According to Ofcom, the net neutrality principle can be explained as: ” you control what you see and do online, not the broadband provider that connects you to the internet.”

While throttling doesn’t prevent access to websites or services, controlling the lanes can manipulate traffic volumes. It’s akin to broadband providers using traffic lights and speed limits: they should use it to ease general congestion and not to manipulate how people use their broadband for their own sake.

Who enforces compliance with throttling regulations?

Ofcom is the principal regulatory authority. It monitors business broadband networks for unfair throttling and enforces compliance through adherence to its voluntary code of conduct, fines, and regular publication of official reports and publications.

Here are more details of each of these mechanisms:

Ofcom's toolDescription
Voluntary codes of practiceProviders can adopt these codes to improve transparency in traffic management, including clear communication about throttling. It helps them achieve compliance.
Reports and publicationsOfcom publishes reports on broadband performance, highlighting throttling and traffic management issues. It's a way of giving issues public attention.
Fines and investigationsOfcom investigates and can fine providers for unfair throttling. No fines issued yet, but Three and Vodafone were investigated in 2018 for breaching net neutrality rules.

Source: BBC

What businesses are prone to throttling?

The short answer is, almost none. Not only is business traffic flagged as a priority by broadband providers, but for most commerces, their level of online activity is below any throttling thresholds.

Only when a business chooses a broadband plan that is significantly below its requirements will it have any significant chance of being throttled.

For example, a small retailer with “regular” broadband usage (e.g. Card readers, VoIP calls, social media) will typically be fine with a basic fibre optic connection but may experience some latency from throttling if it goes as low as the cheapest ADSL connection.

💡 Broadband comparison: The proven, most effective way to upgrade your broadband is through comparing business broadband deals using our service.

On the other hand, established or larger businesses relying heavily on their broadband quality for their services will typically have premium plans or outright, bespoke line broadband, making them virtually immune to throttling.

Identifying throttling in business broadband

The best way of identifying throttling is by going through the following step-by-step diagnosis:

1. Are you experiencing throttling symptoms?

If you are regularly experiencing the following during high-bandwidth activities such as video conferencing or file sharing, there is a chance that this is due to throttling:

  • Laggy video conferencing.
  • Low video resolution.
  • Slow download and upload speeds.
  • Slow load speeds for online services.
  • Stuck loading screens or buffering.

You can be even more suspicious if these occur when working during peak hours, 7 a.m.—9 a.m. and 7 p.m.—11 p.m., discarding the chances these are due to a cybersecurity breach.

💡 Review your broadband provider’s traffic management policy detailed in the service level agreement. This policy will outline the circumstances under which throttling occurs and which types of traffic are affected.

2. VPN throttling test

The VPN throttling test offers a more accurate, independent diagnosis. It requires only a decent-quality VPN service.

The diagnosis goes as follows:

  1. Connect to a high-quality, reputable VPN and disconnect all other devices affecting your test.
  2. Carry out the activities that you think are triggering the throttling (e.g. VoIP with video or transferring large files onto cloud storage)
  3. Carry out a broadband speed test.
  4. Log off from your VPN and carry out the broadband speed test again.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 several times (Five is typically enough and record both VPN and non-VPN speeds.
  6. Compare the results.

If your broadband speed and latency are faster when connecting with a VPN, you are almost certainly experiencing throttling.

VPNs mask your IP address from your business broadband provider, making it harder for them to identify and throttle you.

On the other hand, if there isn’t a noticeable gap in speed, there are two possibilities. Either you are not being throttled, and your broadband issues stem from another problem, such as malware, or your broadband provider is using other methods to identify your business, such as your business broadband router‘s unique identifier (MAC address) or other network signatures.

3. Using monitoring software

This is the most advanced diagnosis but requires a bit more time and technical know-how.

It is more commonly deployed by IT departments and advanced users, who use specialised network monitoring software to track throughput and identify throttling patterns as detailed by the service level agreements.

Some software even has advanced machine learning capabilities to adapt to changing throttling patterns and ensure they ID them.

Strategies for businesses to mitigate throttling

In the very unlikely scenario that your business is experiencing throttling, the best way to mitigate throttling is to simply upgrade your business broadband connection to one above your speed requirements.

Even if full-fibre or cable broadband is unavailable to your business property, you always have 5G and satellite broadband to rely on.

Here is a simple list of broadband connection types, ranked from fastest to slowest:


  1. Leased-line broadband
  2. Full-fibre broadband (and 5G broadband, but being wireless has its own limitations)
  3. Cable broadband
  4. FTTC broadband (Including G-Fast)
  5. ADSL broadband
  6. Satellite broadband (Including Starlink and OneWeb)


Mitigation Strategies

However, if you insist on mitigating the throttling to avoid the extra costs of upgrading, you can try the following:

Monitor internet performanceConduct regular speed tests and use network monitoring tools to track performance.
Optimise network usageUse QoS settings to prioritise critical applications and schedule high-bandwidth activities during off-peak hours.
Use a virtual private network (VPN)Encrypt traffic to mask internet usage from ISPs providers and reduce throttling.
Implement redundant connectionsUse multiple providers for redundancy and maintain secondary connections like mobile hotspots.
Optimise internal network infrastructureInvest in high-quality network equipment, update firmware, and optimise settings to reduce internal bottlenecks.

Avoiding business broadband throttling – FAQs

Our business broadband experts answer commonly asked questions on bandwidth throttling in UK businesses.

Is internet throttling legal in the UK?

Yes, bandwidth throttling is legal in the UK, but it must comply with net neutrality regulations. Business broadband providers must manage traffic transparently and non-discriminatoryly, and they cannot throttle specific services to gain a commercial advantage. Exceptions are allowed for network security, integrity, and legal obligations.

Are there any technological advancements that can reduce the need for throttling?

Yes, any advancement designed to boost bandwidth reduces the need for throttling. This includes all the work Openreach and KCOM are doing to roll out full-fibre to all business properties in the UK, improvements in high-frequency 5G antenna density, and the use of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

Other technologies, such as edge computing, software-defined networking (SDN), and artificial intelligence (AI), are used for traffic management.

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