By now everyone is familiar with Facebook video, the videos that play automatically as you scroll over them in your Facebook feed. Facebook video is rapidly growing in popularity right now. It’s even starting to rattle the popularity of Youtube in terms of number of videos uploaded daily.
The meteoric rise in popularity over the past year has gotten everyone’s attention, including your ISP. Recently I’ve discovered that Facebook videos stutter, buffer, and load much more slowly than they have in the past, particularly in the evenings. Generally, slowly loading video is caused by one of two things: either the video itself is not being delivered quickly enough from the provider (Facebook in this case) or your internet connection isn’t fast enough to handle the video without issues. I certainly believe that Facebook and a likely myriad of CDN’s can handle the delivery side, so that leaves the ISP as the most likely culprit. I haven’t seen any slowdowns with any other general downloading or browsing, so maybe the problem is related strictly to video. Could my ISP, Uverse, be throttling Facebook video?
This article is going to teach you exactly how to run your own tests to see if your ISP is throttling Facebook video. The easiest device to test with is actually your phone. I have an iPhone and it’s super-easy to change your network settings, which is handy here because you want to be able to change your settings quickly.
You’ll probably want to wait until evening to run your test. I usually notice the slowdowns after 7 PM.
Step 1: Find some video in the Facebook App
Open the Facebook app and scroll through your newsfeed looking for videos. Videos in ads should be ignored… ads always have a knack for not being throttled.
If the video plays smoothly then you may be OK. If you see any signs of buffering or stalling then you should keep testing.
Step 2: Turn Off Your Wi-Fi
Next, turn off your Wi-Fi connection so that you’re using your mobile data provider’s connection. I use Verizon and haven’t ever noticed slow video when I’ve had at least a decent signal, so I trust them for this test. Plus, it’s in Verizon’s best interest for you to use as much data as possible so they can charge you more $$$.
Once Wi-Fi is disabled scroll through your timeline again looking for videos. All Facebook videos are coming from the same place, so theoretically if one is being throttled then all of them are being throttled. You shouldn’t watch the same video as before because it may be pre-buffered or loaded from your previous viewing.
This is where you would most likely be able to see if your ISP was throttling your connection. If you had poor video playback in step 1 and don’t in step 2 then you’ve found your bottleneck.
Step 3: Testing With A VPN
If you don’t want to use your mobile data to test in Step 2 then you can use a VPN to accomplish the same thing. When you’re connected to a VPN your ISP can’t see what kind of data you’re receiving or where it’s coming from, making it impossible for them to throttle.
The idea here is the same as in Step 2. Once you’re connected to VPN you should look for more videos in the Facebook app and see how they perform.
Testing On Other Devices
You can use the same general procedure to test Facebook video on your desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. You won’t be able to test with your mobile data provider using other devices so you’ll need to rely on a VPN.
As Facebook video grows it wouldn’t be surprising to see more ISP’s try throttling it. Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, HBO Go / HBO Now, and other video sites are easy targets for throttling because they cost ISP’s quite a bit more than general web traffic. You can test to see if your ISP is throttling other services in the same way you test Facebook video.
If you have any questions or comments then leave them below. Let us know if you find any evidence of throttling from your ISP.