How to bypass throttling using VPN

Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.Wikipedia.

Net neutrality is widely regarded as the cornerstone of the internet’s success. By providing all services and users with an even playing field, innovation is encouraged, and dynamic startups are can thrive.

From the consumer point of view, net neutrality means that the content you want (and for which you pay bandwidth) is delivered to you at the same high speed, regardless of what that content is.

Unfortunately, in January this year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit effectively struck down net neutrality, and the FCC, whose job it is to defend neutrality, and in spite of a massive public outcry that has led to an unprecedented 3 million comments being left on its public consultation website (causing it to crash twice), rather oxymoronically seems determined to ‘save’ net neutrality by destroying it.

Given that the new head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, worked for years as an industry lobbyist campaigning against net neutrality, this is as depressing as it is unsurprising.

In the meantime, the big telecoms companies have wasted no time tearing net neutrality up, the reasons for which are largely threefold:

  1. They can now offer companies who can afford to pay for it faster access to their customers. While this brings in additional revenue for the ISPs, it means that smaller companies, startups, charities, and anyone who cannot afford to pay for the additional bandwidth will have putter along in the ‘slow lane’. The only winners here are large established businesses, who can use this uneven playing field to stifle their competition
  2. They can now offer customers cable-style bundled internet packages which provide customers access to only a limited number of channels (i.e. websites and internet services). To get unlimited access to the internet, customers will have to pay more. Needless to say, this has terrible social implications, but the process is already underway
  3. They can discriminate against services that compete with their own. The classic example of this is that both Comcast and Verizon (who both run internet streaming services), almost immediately following the Court ruling in January started to throttle Netflix traffic. Their excuse is that Netflix unfairly hogs their bandwidth so it only fair that it should pay for it, but surely customers are paying for the ISPs for that bandwidth precisely so they can stream services such as Netflix?

How VPN can help

Using a VPN service connects your computer (including mobile devices) to a VPN provider’s servers using an encrypted tunnel. Because all data passing through this tunnel is protected by strong encryption, your ISP cannot know what users are doing on the internet, and therefore cannot prioritize or discriminate against specific services.

Just to demonstrate how effective this can be, in July Colin Nederkoorn, CEO of, performed a series of tests in which using VPN improved his connection speeds when streaming Netfix over his Verizon connection tenfold!

Using a VPN therefore prevents throttling of internet services, and will likely become a vital tool in the struggle to preserve net neutrality. However…

It is possible for ISPs to throttle / block VPN itself

Although all data passing through an encrypted VPN tunnel is hidden from an ISP, it can ‘see’ the tunnel itself, and can therefore choose to throttle or block all such traffic. Alternatively, it can simply throttle or block all traffic connected to known IP addresses belonging to VPN providers.

Throttling or blocking VPN traffic is very problematic, as businesses rely on VPN to secure internal communications, process payments, and for any number of routine purposes that are vital for them to operate, so banning VPN protocols would have a very negative impact on the economy.

This is a problem compounded by the fact that running OpenVPN (or SSTP) over TCP port 443 makes VPN traffic indistinguishable from the HTTPS traffic (https://), which uses the protocol on which almost all internet security relies.

VPN traffic is therefore only blocked in extremely restrictive countries such as China or Iran, but there is some evidence US companies may be throttling it. Fortunately, this can be easily bypassed by switching to tcp port 443, tampering with this would effectively break the internet.

Many providers’ custom VPN clients let you easily switch ports. To do this in the generic open source OpenVPN client, you can edit the relevant .ovpn config file in a text editor, and manually change the settings.

ovpn change port

If you have problems then your VPN provider should be able and happy to provide assistance.

Many VPN providers also offer ‘stealth’ servers, which use obfspoxy like technologies to mask the use of VPN traffic.

A bigger danger is that ISPs might throttle the internet for users connected to the known IP ranges of VPN providers. As a user, there is not much you can do about this apart from choose to use less well-known VPN providers, but the providers themselves can recycle their IP addresses, setup new proxy servers, and perform various other tricks to help combat this threat.

Throttling outside the United States

The recent collapse of net neutrality in the US, and in particular the closing of the FCC’s public consultation period (which was extended from July 15th to September 15th in order to handle the huge volume of comments it received), has focused world attention on the issue of throttling in America, and has made it an urgent priority for American netizens.

The rest of the world, however, is watching events in the US very closely, and ISPs everywhere are hoping it will set a precedent allowing them to charge differently for different levels of internet access and bandwidth.

The EU and Brazil have passed legislation aimed at guaranteeing net neutrality, but even here, the fact that a huge proportion of all internet traffic passes through the US (even when the US is neither its start point nor its destination) means that what happen in the States is likely to affect users elsewhere.

In all cases, as long as it is not itself throttled, VPN will help (and discussed above, even when it is throttled, options are available).

A note on BitTorrent throttling

Many ISPs, even in countries which uphold net neutrality, discriminate against BitTorrent traffic on the assumption that all such traffic involves illegal copyright infringement. To see whether your BitTorrent traffic is being throttled, check out this fantastic tool by Measurement Lab, which lets you see how much throttling of BitTorrent traffic is performed not only by country, but by ISP.


Again, using a VPN (which allows P2P) will bypass this throttling, while providing the additional benefits of hiding what you are downloading from your ISP, and by using an outwards facing proxy IP address, will ensure your downloads cannot be traced back to your real IP address.

The catch

Because VPN involves data travelling through an extra leg of the journey as it routes through the VPN servers, and because encrypting and decrypting data takes processing power, using VPN always comes with a speed hit, which can be as low as 10 percent, but can be much more.

The benefit of using VPN to evade throttling therefore depends on the speed hit resulting from using a VPN, put against the amount of throttling that is occurring. As demonstrated fairly spectacularly by Mr Nederkoorn and his 10 x faster Netflix speeds when using VPN however (as mentioned earlier), the benefits can still be considerable.

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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18 responses to “How to bypass throttling using VPN

  1. I am from India..Can you please tell me the best free VPN software with unlimited bandwidth or any other simple trick so that I can get unlimited access to internet.
    I am a student and live in hostel.All students are in trouble.Several VPNs have already been blocked by the University’s IT Department like Psiphon,Zero VPN,Tiger VPN.
    I would be very very thankful to you if you can please help.
    Also there is a Tenda router in our room. So if you can please tell any trick or any VPN.

    1. H Saquib,

      I’m afraid that using a VPN can bypass throttling (because it hides the contents of your traffic), but it cannot overcome bandwidth restrictions. Your ISP is supplying the bandwidth, after all. For unrestricted access to the internet, you can try using some of the tricks outlined in 5 BestVPNs for China to evade blocks on VPNs (AirVPNs ability to route VPN connections through SSL and SSH tunnels, for example, can be very effective).

    1. Hi Edison,

      A VPN hides what your internet traffic is, so yes, it can bypass throttling. For example, if an ISP throttles your connection when it detects use of the BitTorrent protocol, you can hide the fact that you are torrenting by using a VPN. This can of course lead to an ISP throttling all VPN encrypted traffic, but This too can usually be bypassed by switching to TCP port 443 in order to make your traffic look like regular HTTP traffic. Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) will foil this, but using “stealth” servers of the type offered the likes of ExpressVPN, BolehVPN, and VyprVPN will obfuscate the fact that you are using a VPN. AirVPN’s ability to route OpenVPN traffic through an SSL or SSH tunnel should also be very effective.

    1. Hi precious chimara,

      VPN does not allow you to bypass your data cap, and as far as I know, there is no easy way of doing this.

  2. Can a vpn bypass fair use policy? I live in middle east and everyday when i hit 5 GB download, my speed gets reduced to 1-2 MB/s until midnight then i can have my normal speed back.

    So can i use a vpn to download unlimited GB?

    1. Hi Saleh,

      I’m afraid not. VPN will hide what you are doing on the internet from your ISP, but will not hide how much data you use.

        1. Hi Adam,

          Really? I must admit to being very surprised! There is nothing about VPN technology that can hide the amount of data used from your ISP, so I don’t have an explanation for your experience…

          1. Hi Douglas

            Seems like you know what you’re talking about, i have the same exact issue that saleh has
            however my speed gets f-ing suppressed down to 128kbps which isn’t enough to even load up how can i keep my normal speed for the whole month with no throttling.

          2. Hi Adam,

            That is terrible! I think, if possible, you should shut down your account and choose another supplier! Whether you can bypass such throttling depends why your ISP is throttling you. If it because of something you do online (such as P2P downloading), then using a VPN can help. As I mentioned to Eddison, you can also use various “stealth” technologies to prevent being throttled on the basis of using a VPN.

  3. Hi, I just tried 2 VPN’s and Comcast has throttled them way down.. I have there 105mbps plan won’t you know with both ExpressVPN and Le-VPN I was throttled down to 1-2mbps with changing the settings per support’s advice would I see just a teeny tiny improvement ended up canceling both for a refund. I guess they don’t want you to have privacy or security. Wonder if I get hacked if I can sue them from preventing this and screwing with my speed.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Let me first say that it’s not the VPN providers’ fault if Comcast is throttling VPN traffic. As noted in this article, switching to TCP port 443 should defeat most such throttling, as this makes OpenVPN traffic look exactly like regular SSL traffic (which secures all secure websites.) If Comcast is throttling this, then it is effectively throttling all encrypted traffic. If this fails then you can try a service which offers “stealth” or “obfuscation” technology (check out 5 Best VPNs for China for find a good list of these…)

  4. I live in the boonies in a place with no telephone or cable lines for Internet. I purchased a mobile device with “unlimited everything” when my wife was in labor so I could be at the hospital and finish my degree online as I tended to her needs at her bedside. I was throttled to a crawl the very first day of watching an streaming online lecture. My mobile carrier said they were doing nothing wrong, I still had unlimited Internet, but at slower speeds once I passed 2GB of use.

    I went ahead and rooted my phone with Kingo Android Root from my Desktop. I enabled the Developer Options on my Android phone and set it up to run while charging and the screen display is off. So I can leave it charging in the window with the display screen Off for weeks on end.

    I downloaded and installed from GooglePlay:

    Terminal Emulator app to run scripts,
    SuperSU to assign apps with SuperUser privileges,
    SManager to save scripts that run automatically on boot and on any network change,
    OpenVPN Connect as my VPN client

    I opened a private VPN account that allowed for use with OpenVPN Connect and downloaded the profile for my nearest VPN server and imported to OpenVPN. I entered the username in OpenVPN Connect, enabled the Save Password option, and tested the connection. So far, so good.

    Android does not share VPN connections over its WiFi Hotspot feature, so I edited this script in Notepad, saved it as “” and transferred this script file to my SD card:

    iptables ­­flush
    iptables ­A POSTROUTING ­o tun0 ­j MASQUERADE ­t nat
    iptables ­A FORWARD ­i tun0 ­o wlan0 ­m state ­­state RELATED,ESTABLISHED ­j RETURN
    iptables ­A FORWARD ­i wlan0 ­o tun0 ­m state ­­state INVALID ­j DROP
    iptables ­A FORWARD ­i wlan0 ­o tun0 ­j RETURN

    I saved it as with a text editor and put it on my phone’s SD card. I opened the file as a text file with the File Manager on my Android mobile device, copied the script and pasted it into Terminal Emulator to make sure it enabled both VPN and Internet connection sharing. I assigned SuperUser privileges to Terminal Emulator with SuperSU; now I can use my phone as a mobile Hotspot to do my classwork.

    I did not want to run the script every time I booted my phone, so I imported into SManager, saved it as a favorite, assigned SU privileges, enabled it to run on boot and on any network changes and saved the profile. I assigned SuperUser privileges to SManager with SuperSU.

    Wouldn’t you know it? My wife wanted Internet access, too. I setup a router with wireless WAN, wireless LAN and wired LAN capabilities. I ran netcfg to check the network settings on my phone and make sure the wireless interface is wlan0 and its IP address (in my case

    On the router, I setup the Hotspot as the WAN connection or ISP. I setup the wlan0 IP address (in my case as the DNS to fool the network to use my mobile device as a DHCP server. Voilá; we all have Internet.

    After discovering that I was still being throttled, I went ahead and edited the OVPN file for the VPN server nearest me with Notepad.

    I replaced the line which reads, “proto udp” to “proto tcp.”
    I changed the port number in the line that reads, “[] 1194” to “[] 443” where is the name of my particular VPN server in the scirpt, and everything was fine.

    My phone only gets a signal in a particular spot on the window. It is the same for calls as it is for data. I purchased a bluetooth phone system with 5 handsets. I setup my phone to send calls via bluetooth to the home base station, which in turns sends a wireless signal to all the handsets in the house. No more dropped calls or interruptions while on the Internet. My mobile phone never leaves the spot in the window unless I leave the house. The display backlight consumes the most amount of power, so the phone never runs out of charge because it is continuously plugged in with the display screen Off.

  5. All well and good but my (very good) VPN gives me lower speeds than my (very high speed) internet so I get throttled anyway.

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