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Use your iPhone to check if your ISP is throttling your video

Published Feb 21st, 2021 2:28PM EST
Internet Speed
Image: Apple

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  • If you’ve noticed some hiccups or degradation in quality when streaming video to your mobile device, there’s a quick way to check if your bandwidth is being throttled by your ISP.
  • While major ISPs like Comcast don’t typically throttle, smaller regional ISPs do on occasion.

In a scenario that plays out far too often, the download speeds offered by many internet service providers aren’t always as high in real-world usage as they are in advertisements. A slower than expected connection can be caused by a multitude of factors, including ISP throttling, signal congestion, multiple people using a network concurrently, and more. Additionally, if you’re streaming HD video to a mobile device, newer devices sometimes include more advanced WiFi technologies than devices from a few years ago.

If you’re on a relatively new smartphone and are still noticing curiously low download speeds, there’s a quick and easy way to check if you’re being throttled by your ISP. Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that some ISPs proactively throttle traffic when users visit data-intensive sites like Netflix and Hulu.

To check your internet connection, you’ll first want to download the Speedtest app from the App Store. You might see a few options so make sure you download the app developed by Ookla.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, CultofMac notes that you’ll want to bypass the regular speed test option and instead click on the Video tab at the bottom of the app. If you have an otherwise fast internet connection but the “video streaming test reveals you can only stream lower-quality video, you’ll know your ISP is throttling you.”

If you have a more recent iPhone, you should see a Max Resolution of 2160p after running the test. It’s worth noting that throttling video is much more common when streaming via cellular data than via your Wi-Fi connection.

Another tool worth checking out is the Netflix ISP Speed Index. The tool, which is from Netflix itself, evaluates the streaming quality of Netflix programs on varying ISPs across the United States and the world. As it stands now, the following US-based ISPs are ranked the highest when it comes to download speeds:

  • Comcast
  • Cox
  • Mediacom
  • Optimum Cable
  • Optimum Fiber
  • Spectrum
  • Suddenlink
  • Verizon – FiOS

AT&T U-Verse, it’s worth noting, is ranked a tier below the list of internet service providers above.

It’s also worth noting that Netflix a few months ago stopped downgrading the quality of their video streams from HD to standard definition. The streaming giant, if you recall, started lowering its video quality in response to the coronavirus pandemic because millions of people on lockdown were stuck at home and streaming an unprecedented amount of content. For what it’s worth, Netflix’s compression algorithms are so advanced that most users didn’t even really notice much of a difference.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.