Netflix Admits to Throttling Mobile Video, Announces 'Data Saver' Feature for Smartphone Apps

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Netflix has admitted to throttling the video streams of its customers on AT&T and Verizon mobile devices, a practice it confirmed has been in effect for more than five years to “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps.”

Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, the company said it doesn't throttle video on Sprint and T-Mobile due to more lenient policies enacted by those carriers that favor slower network connection when data plans are exceeded, instead of overage fees. T-Mobile was at the center of its own throttling controversy earlier in the year, thanks to its free video streaming service Binge On.

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To continue its transparency on the subject, Netflix announced a new feature coming to its mobile apps that will grant subscribers more control over their streaming. Called "data saver," the update will let users decide to stream lower-quality video if they have a smaller data plan, or increase to higher-quality video if they have a larger data plan. Netflix said it's "on track" for data saver to launch in May, and plans to release more details closer to launch.

To justify the previous half-decade of secret throttling, the company cited a study it completed recently that pointed to an apathetic response by most users regarding the quality of streaming on their smartphones, with a larger percentage worried about the quality of streaming at home on a television. Still, it hopes moving forward that the new data saver feature will level the playing field and give every one of its subscribers the chance to control their preferable mobile streaming quality.

We believe restrictive data caps are bad for consumers and the Internet in general, creating a dilemma for those who increasingly rely on their mobile devices for entertainment, work and more. So in an effort to protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps, our default bitrate for viewing over mobile networks has been capped globally at 600 kilobits per second. It’s about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers.

Netflix stepped forward to accept the downgraded video claims about a week after AT&T and Verizon both became the center of accusation about throttled Netflix videos on their respective service plans. The streaming video company has publicly backed Net Neutrality since the FCC enacted the open-internet rules last year, and believes its practice of capping video to prevent unexpected user fees is striking a balance that "hasn’t been an issue for our members."

Tag: Netflix

Top Rated Comments

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57 months ago
You say "admitted" as if they've done something wrong. You would expect them to stream lower quality on cellular networks. Other video services like YouTube do the same thing. It's common courtesy.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

So 5 years of degraded video quality due to less bandwidth, while still paying the full price. I'd demand some form of refund if I were a customer.

People should be thankful that Netflix tried to keep them from the greed of Verizon and AT&T overages. I solely blame Verizon & AT&T for caping data. The caps are BS they know it.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago
I've been a Netflix customer during that entire period and I use the Netflix app. I don't care one iota. I'm sure there will be a vocal minority outraged but I'm definitely not in that camp. Non-issue for me.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago

I have been a vocal critic of T-Mobile (primarily because of their coverage issues despite all the big talk from Legere about how their coverage has gotten so much better); but I do agree with you.

But when T-Mobile does it, calls it Binge-On, and tells you that they won't even charge you for the data used, everyone screams Net Neutrality.. And oh yeah, they even give you the ability to disable it, something NetFlix has not been providing to AT&T and Verizon users. *facepalm*

The difference is that Netflix is the owner and distributor of the data that they are throttling. T-Mobile is a pipe owner who is throttling other peoples data as they see fit to best suit their network. Huge difference if you ask me
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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57 months ago
So 5 years of degraded video quality due to less bandwidth, while still paying the full price. I'd demand some form of refund if I were a customer.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
57 months ago
Thank goodness for unlimited data. No need to worry about anything like this.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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