Test If Your ISP Is Shaping Your Download Speed

Ever have one of those days where you’re browsing along, everything is cool, but then it seems like whenever you try to watch YouTube or download, your speed suddenly plummets? Your ISP could be “shaping” your traffic, intentionally throttling your rates for certain kind of media. To test it out, you can try running this Glasnost test.

It lets you run a test based on the type of media you’re consuming. You can select to test your speed viewing Flash video, downloading a BitTorrent, accessing email, etc.

Some ISPs do limit by certain kinds of media and sometimes only at certain times of day. You might want to run the test at a few different points to compare the results.

The Glasnost site is getting a bunch of traffic itself right now so you bookmark it and check back later after its servers aren’t so slammed.

Glasnost: Test if your ISP is shaping your traffic [broadband.mpi-sws.org via Lifehacker]


Edit Your Comment

  1. EverCynicalTHX says:

    The test server is overloaded.

  2. Tongsy says:

    Doesn’t matter if they are shaping your traffic, you will only be allowed a small ration of bandwidth soon enough. Starting in Canada, and the US will most likely take a form of this as well soon enough.


    • dolemite says:

      I don’t think it will have as easy a time passing in the US. Internet throttling severely hurts all internet based companies, and only helps the ISPs.

      I’m not sure if Comcast’s lobbyists are stronger than Amazon, Netflix, Google, etc.

    • shepd says:

      It’s not just approved, you have about 70 days left.


      They are also working on raising the overage rate to $30, and their retail customers are at $60 as of January, meaning everyone on DSL in most of Canada will be at $60 overages in short order. Expect that the average bill for a serious DSL user will be in the $100 – $120 per month range.

    • sonneillon says:

      In the US we have oddly enough been more resistant to usage based billing than our Canadian friends. It’s usually the reverse, but both AT&T and Time Warner got a significant amount of push back for trying.

  3. Yankees368 says:

    “We are sorry. Our measurement servers are currently overloaded and cannot serve you at the moment. Please try again later. “

    Been like that for days, ever since being featured on Gizmodo.com

  4. Bernardo says:

    What do you do when you find out this is happening? Is it illegal? How can you “Prove” Prove it so you can report it?

  5. ktetch says:

    Not bad Ben, but a little out of date.

    Glasnost was released in May 2008, and the EFF released their own tool (Switzerland) in September 2008.

    Glasnost is now pretty much useless for the US, as the servers are well known to the ISPs, and are on an exemption list. So, the tests will say you’re not throttled, but you are.

  6. dulcinea47 says:

    Oooh that is just what I need. Lately whenever I try to watch anything on Netflix my service slows to a crawl.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That’s been happening to me too and it’s ANNOYING when I’m trying to watch a movie simultaneously with my long-distance honey.

  7. milkcake says:

    I don’t care whether they shape it or not. It’s all about usability. And if they are shaping it to the point that I can’t watch youtube at the lowest quality setting at 8PM, it sucks! And yep, my Time Warner cable sucks like that. I’m not trying to do some ridiculous stuff. Give me enough speed to be able to watch Netflix in HD at night.

  8. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Try the YouTube Speed Test. Start a Youtube video – then right right click it and “Take the speed test”.

    My results: http://i53.tinypic.com/2jb8lso.png

  9. c!tizen says:

    Do a speed test a few times through out the day and record the results. I’d recommend doing it over a week or two just to get a solid set of data. Then spoof the mac address on your router to match, say… a desktop NIC and see if your speeds increase. If so you’re probably being throttled. It’s a little hard to prove, but the numbers don’t lie and the larger data set you have the more convincing it becomes.

    I was pulling an average of around 7MB down with Time Warner’s 10 MB package and speed boost should have shot it up to around 12MB. I cloned the mac address from my desktop and ran the same tests (speedtest.net) at the same times during the day for a week and my results were magically averaged out at around 10MB. Of course when I brought this up to TW they were dumbfounded and explained it must be a glitch, yet further testing yielded the same results.

    • Megalomania says:

      do you mean 7MB, or 7Mb? I don’t know of any ISPs that offer 80mbit pipes to homes, but if there is someplace where TWC does that, I want to go to there.

      • c!tizen says:

        Force of habit. I noticed it when I submitted the comment, but edit buttons are apparently an expense addition to comment supported sites.

  10. AnthonyC says:

    I”m not sure if this counts as shaping, but some ISPs give preferential treatment to the first few MB of any download- sometimes significantly faster than the “up to” speeds you pay for. There the idea is to ensure small files and web pages transfer quickly, even if network traffic is high. That, I have no problem with.

    But throttling speed based on what is being transferred is exactly why we need net neutrality rules.

  11. Bernardo says:

    AGAIN! Is there someone to complain to about this? How can you PROVE this? Is it worth upgradign my Internet package with my ISP because of this or does it even matter? If I pay for the top level of internet with Timewarner will tehy still choke my service? Can you PLEASE make a what to do next guide?!!?!?!?!?!?!?

    I live in NYC and I have Time Warner and its frustrating to have this happen. The only reason I bought the Plasma I have is so that I can stream stuff In HD. With out it I mgiht as well buy bluerays or netflix like crazy.

    What do you suggest we do next? What can be done to help?

    • ktetch says:

      You can try complaining to the FCC, but not much will change.

      You’d have more luck writing to your elected reps. OR you can join a group that cares about this, such as the EFF, or my preference, the United States Pirate Party.

      (disclosure, I’m the USPP’s legal director)

    • ARP says:

      You had your chance. Remember all that net neutrality stuff? That’s what it was about. Not, the “government wants to regulate what you see on the internet!” No, they didn’t want ISP’s to provide preferential treatment to one type of content over the other. People fell for the fear (surprise, surprise) and now net neutrality is probably dead for at least a few more years.

      • SonicPhoenix says:

        This has nothing to do with net neutrailty. Net neutrality was abou ISP’s adjusting priority for network traffic based on where the traffic was coming from. Net neutraily was basically about not giving priority to traffic from Google or Amazon or Netflix. It had nothing to do with the _type_ of data; it was all about the _source_ of the data.

        Even if net neutrailty had been enacted, ISPs still would have had the latitude to determine that http traffic packets had priority over bittorrent packets or that during peak times, the latter would be restricted to x% of the overall bandwidth so as not to impact http or voip or streaming video.

        • ktetch says:

          Actually, no. Completely wrong.
          Network Neutrality means just that, Network data is all considered Neutral.
          Packet type-prioritisation was trumpeted by some so-called experts 2-3 years back. You might remember such ‘luminaries’ as Richard Bennett saying that bittorrent inc. snew utorrent transfer protocol (µtp) was going to kill the net, because it was moving stuff from tcp to udp, which would kill the traffic shapers and everything else, and move bittorrent traffic onto stuff thats traditionally been time sensitive.

          Guess what, 2 years later, and no collapse.

          You fell for more FUD.

          • SonicPhoenix says:

            I stand corrected. Though I still think it should be acceptable to set up QoS or bandwidth shaping based on protocol unless the SLA for one’s connection specifically rules that out.

    • SonicPhoenix says:

      Hate to sound callous but if you have a consumer-level connection with no SLA (service level agreement) then you have no recourse. The reason you’re only paying $30-60 for your 5-10 Mbit connection is because you’re sharing that bandwidth with other subscribers. To make that fair for everyone who’s using that bandwidth, the ISP sometimes has to use bandwidth shaping or QoS settings.

      If you truly want your own dedicated bandwidth you can get a fiber connection or a fractional DS3. However, you’re probably looking at paying a few hundred dollars a month for the loop charge (that is the charge just to have them connect the wires to your location) as well as between $50-200 per Mbit of bandwidth provided. You’ll also likely have to spend $300-500 or more for the equipment necessary to connect to the fiber or DS3 serial connection as the $50 Linksys/Netgear/Dlink router you have now doesn’t have the proper interface.

      So if you’re willing to pay the true costs for a 10Mbit connection then you won’t have to worry about any QoS or bandwidth shaping. But if you want to pay less than $1,000/month, you’re stuck with whatever connetion quality measures the ISP chooses to implement.

  12. fortymegafonzies says:

    How long will it be before ISPs start “shaping” content that is critical of them, or “shaping” traffic in order to mute political or business adversaries?

  13. endless says:

    i totally suspect them of shaping youtube

  14. PsiCop says:

    This is what I get:

    “We are sorry. Our measurement servers are currently overloaded and cannot serve you at the moment. Please try again later.”

    Wow. How astonishingly helpful! Wake me when they fix it. I have better things to do than deal with vaporware.

  15. eli says:

    Wouldn’t this flag the sort of traffic shaping that Comcast markets as “speed boost” ?

  16. tooluser says:

    Get outside and get some exercise, you.

  17. gman863 says:

    You subscribe for unlimited service at a given speed (fine print: “up to” this speed, your actual speed will likely suck).

    The fine print says you can be cut back for “excessive use.” To my knowledge, Comcast is the only company with a specific definition of “excessive use” capped at 250GB per month. No other company seems willing to state a specific tipping point.

    How much bandwidth have you actually used this month? Unlike reading the electric, gas or water meter there’s no way to tell.

    More fine print: Temporary throttling may happen during “peak usage”. Translation: The ISP doesn’t have enough capacity to handle the traffic subscribers are paying for. If the electric company did this it would be called either a brownout or rolling blackout.

    At least the TSA is kind enough to only touch your junk for a few seconds. Based on the above, ISPs just stick theirs up your rear and break it off.

  18. Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

    At least the TSA is kind enough to only touch your junk for a few seconds. Based on the above, ISPs just stick theirs up your rear and break it off.

    You mean like male wasp spiders?


  19. JohnJ says:

    I don’t know about shaping (server overload), but my ISP does well on http://speedtest.net and http://www.pingtest.net tests.

  20. FrugalFreak says:

    EFF’s Switzerland might be better to test, but still waiting on a Windows xp installer version, I tried installing it command line etc.. but failed. I hope they will get some volunteers to help on the Windows installer version soon.

  21. Kuri says:

    And guess which site is going to have their connection throttled soon.