Is my ISP slowing down YouTube?
July 29, 2010 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Is my ISP purposefully slowing down YouTube/Google’s traffic?

Lately YouTube has been extremely slow (as in I can’t watch movies in realtime), but I just assumed it was YouTube sucking. However, I VPN’d into my university’s network to do some work, and I forgot to close the connection before I started my Metafilter/Reddit browsing session. Through my VPN connection, YouTube movies load roughly 3 times faster than a non-VPN’d connection. I tried this several times by connecting to through a VPN, loading a movie, timing how long it takes to load, and then repeating that process with the same movie without the VPN connection.

Granted, that wasn’t a scientific test, but my I believe that my ISP (Bright House in central Florida) might be throttling my connection. Are there any ways to prove this? If so, what can I do about that?

Also, I’ve tried this in two locations both serviced by Bright House. One in the Tampa area and one near Daytona Beach. YouTube sucks in both locations, and can be made better with a VPN (to a fast, non-Bright House site). Also also, the upstream connection is 10Mbps for the Daytona site (unsure what it is at the Tampa one but I’m fairly certain it is at least 3Mbps).
posted by mazniak to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ring them and ask them. They can't lie about it. Then carefully read your service contract - there'll probably be provision for throttling if necessary.
posted by doublehappy at 7:35 PM on July 29, 2010

A search on "Brighthouse youtube" reveals an enormous number of complaints. Clearly, it's not just you.

As to whether there's anything to be done here, switching ISPs is probably your best bet. Tell them why you're leaving.
posted by zachlipton at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2010

There's a way for what you've described to happen without deliberate throttling on your ISP's part. You might want to do a nslookup on YouTube, both direct and via the VPN. It's entirely possible that it will resolve to different IP addresses for each. If it does, it may just be that your ISP has fatter pipes connecting it to your VPN endpoint than it does to the "local" YouTube server.
posted by flabdablet at 7:54 PM on July 29, 2010

flabdablet: an nslookup showing different results doesn't really prove anything, except that Youtube does load balancing DNS tricks. Besides, the videos themselves don't come from, they come from a cache server that is iirc a subdomain under It's your connection to that individual cache server that determines how fast a particular video loads.
posted by zachlipton at 8:01 PM on July 29, 2010

Right click on the video and use the 'Report playback issue' link to notify youtube of the problem. It could be an issue with their load balancing, or it could simply be that your ISP's transit is congested -- I wouldn't jump to malice (throttling) at all.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:14 PM on July 29, 2010

My ISP in New Zealand had a very similar sounding issue for a long time -- eg I could proxy YouTube via my employer's VPN and get great playback.

What can happen is that the ISP doesn't have enough bandwidth back to YouTube servers. YouTube is some humongous proportion of web traffic, so that's a problem. So either they are throttling YouTube in response, or maybe you're just competing with all the other ISP's users for traffic on that route. Many ISPs now have Google YouTube caches installed at some sensible place for them which makes YouTube much faster for their users.

My ISP didn't have a cache. Everyone complained. As soon as the ISP installed one, which apparently took quite a bit of negotiation and shagging about, the problem went away.

If you can do this easily, change ISP. If not, complain loudly. It was only after many months of complaint from many sources and public shaming on local geeky sites that my ISP (which is the only cable internet provider in my city) pulled finger and put a cache in.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:32 PM on July 29, 2010

PS: your ISP doesn't necessarily have to have a cache itself, but they need to have good bandwidth to somewhere that does. My ISP (TelstraClear NZ) didn't (and still refuses to) peer at the local internet exchange which does have a cache.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:34 PM on July 29, 2010

(Not wishing to miss an opportunity to put the boot in on TelstraClear NZ ... )

All due to respect to i_am_joe's_spleen but I feel he has missed some of the "cache -> good" story.

TelstraClear NZ did indeed activate a transparent proxy but unfortunately they are ill qualified to make use of it [1].

Twice or three times a day all international traffic web traffic stops for a few minutes. This has only started since they installed the cache and I'm assuming that their efforts to make use of it are the origin of the outages (all non-web traffic keeps rocking along during the outages).

The point being that introducing a cache undoubtedly helps the response for stuff like YouTube but introduces the potential to stuff up other things.

posted by southof40 at 11:25 PM on July 29, 2010

I'd recommend first seeing if you get better results with google's DNS before switching ISPs.

My guess is you'll get faster speeds. If it's sufficient enough, then you don't need to change your service provider.
posted by smersh at 12:55 AM on July 30, 2010

Ring them and ask them. They can't lie about it.

I once had a cell-phone internet connection where a transparent proxy downsampled every image on every page, to save on bandwidth use. I could tell because it also inserted a script into every page which added a 'press ctrl+d to improve quality' note on mouseover of each image. The proxy server was unquestionably present.

I experienced connection problems consistent with a fault in the proxy server software. I contacted the service provider's technical support and they told me the proxy server did not exist.

Now, I don't know if they were intentionally or accidentally lying, but I do know that you can't take tech support's word on this stuff.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:20 AM on July 30, 2010 > imo (for as long as it remains public. They keep making threats.....)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:44 AM on July 30, 2010

This is a little off-topic, but switching DNS servers won't make a difference if they're throttling the connection in between you and YouTube.

If you are concerned about DNS queries, Thomas Stromberg's excellent and open-source namebench does a whole lot of analysis on which DNS servers are right for you.
posted by kdar at 9:06 AM on July 30, 2010

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