A commonly asked question is, “does a VPN slow down my Internet?” Similarly, a common complaint is that Internet speed drops after connecting to a VPN. The answer depends on a lot of factors, and might even lean to the opposites. What’s more, we can show how to increase Internet speed using a VPN in specific situations. The silver lining is that some of the situations aren’t uncommon and might improve the speed on their own. Now that you know the answer to, “do VPN increase Internet speed?” is “yes, in specific cases”, let’s break down when that applies.
When does VPN increase Internet speed?
VPN increases your Internet speed in these circumstances:
1. Internet Service Provider is throttling your connection
In this event, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll notice a boost in Internet speed when VPN is in use. ISPs often scan and analyze the packets their customers send and receive on the network. Then, they intentionally throttle their Internet speed to ensure every customer has a balanced experience. In some cases, they might do this to force the customers to upgrade to a faster (and more expensive) plan. This is very common if you’re streaming a lot, or downloading large files. So, when you connect to bypass a Netflix VPN block, you might discover that besides unblocking, a VPN reduced or removed buffering too.
2. Your native Internet connection is overcrowded
The occurrence of this happening is vastly more common with those using cable Internet. Another dead giveaway is if you’re residing in a building that uses one ISP. In that case, the bandwidth of the physical cable that has to carry Internet + digital signal for the TV is limited by its specifications. The thing is – those limits are never reached since your ISP puts an artificial limit on the cable’s throughput. Once again, hiding your IP with a VPN also hides your identity from the ISP, so they cannot impose that restraint.
3. There’s a router bottleneck
Are you renting your network equipment (modem, router, switch, etc.) from your Internet Service Provider? Does it look high-tech, and show much greater speed capability when you Google its model number or network protocol. Now, you can’t expect to hit those speeds, since they were measured under ideal conditions. However, there’s a chance that your ISP installed modified firmware that has an impact on your Internet speed. If that’s the case, updating the firmware itself might solve the problem. If ISP prevents it or puts a failsafe, installing another firmware such as DD-WRT or Tomato can help. Or, better yet, installing a VPN on a router or using OpenWrt can circumvent these speed restrictions.
4. You disabled encryption
Disabling encryption is a way to reduce VPN data usage significantly. The same applies to a rise in Internet speed, especially when combined with the remainder of the circumstances we mentioned. To do this, you can use security protocols such as PPTP, which is not recommended, and L2TP/IKEv2 (without IPsec) which is OK for casual browsing or changing your location virtually. Some VPN providers, such as Private Internet Access, allow turning encryption off with OpenVPN TCP/UDP while retaining online privacy to a degree. The best balance between speed and security is using the lowest encryption key level, nowadays 128-bit, when possible.
5. You’re partaking in long-distance connections
Connecting to a VPN server might prove to be the shorter route to the destination server over using regular Internet traffic. While the data travels, it might also use servers that are banned on native Internet traffic (method 7), thus reaching the destination in fewer server hops.
6. Your Internet Service Provider uses ineffective DNS servers
The chances for this are low, but common if your ISP is part of a larger network. If so, their company’s DNS servers might be thousands of miles away, and your browsing speed might suffer. This speed loss won’t be as prominent outside of the Internet browser, though. So, getting a quality VPN that supplies its own DNS servers, such as StrongDNS, part of StrongVPN we reviewed, might put a stop to that type of speed loss.
7. The government is imposing heavy censorship
This is only applicable to Internet users from heavily censored countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Vietnam, Belarus, etc. By using a VPN, they might experience an unexpected growth in Internet speed, especially while browsing. That’s because ISPs in those countries run network filters 24/7, stopping users from accessing banned online resources. Furthermore, ISPs must continuously block new IP addresses of servers behind those resources. This prevents users from bypassing DNS and connecting directly.