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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."

Article Link: Netflix Admits to Throttling Mobile Video, Announces 'Data Saver' Feature for Smartphone Apps
 
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_Refurbished_

macrumors 68020
Mar 23, 2007
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Speeds have always been adjusted for cellular. It's common knowledge you get higher quality streams over Wifi. As these networks get better, I'm happy to see streaming quality on the rise. With T-Mobile I never need to worry about switching to Wifi because they're data plans are so good.
 

zaphon

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Oct 9, 2003
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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.

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*
 

avanpelt

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Jun 2, 2010
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If they didn't throttle when their mobile app is used over cellular to some degree, Netflix would be pretty useless over a cellular connection unless you have a big bucket of data or an unlimited plan. Not too long ago, the internet connection at my house was down so I tethered my Apple TV to my iPhone and proceeded to watch a 30 minute show (which is actually ~22 minutes without commercials). I chewed up about 1 GB of data in those 22 minutes streaming 1080p video to the Apple TV, as I recall.
 
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DVNIEL

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Oct 28, 2003
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I don't know why this comes a surprise, I've always seen warnings that my connection will affect the quality of video and by force selecting HQ or HD will cause an increase in data use.
 

avanpelt

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Jun 2, 2010
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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*

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.
 

7thson

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May 13, 2012
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I only use Netflix with wifi so I've never seen this but I'm not surprised they weren't forthcoming about this. Netflix is pretty cavalier about "knowing" what's best for their customers, e.g. rearranging queues, sorry My List, randomly and not implementing downloadable content, which would bolster their stance on protecting the customer, because "it would confuse the customer."
 

pfarfour

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Aug 31, 2010
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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
 

avanpelt

macrumors 68030
Jun 2, 2010
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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

Ask virtually any network administrator and they will tell you that they reserve the right to limit bandwidth to any customer in order to maintain the overall stability and accessibility of the network for their customer base at large. Bandwidth monitoring and control, when needed, is an important part of any network.
 

Fender2112

macrumors 65816
Aug 11, 2002
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Charlotte, NC
I've been a Netflix customer for several years. I assumed mobile bandwidth was limited, just as many other services do.

Who, in their right mind, streams HD video over their cellular connection, even it is unlimited.
 

macduke

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Jun 27, 2007
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Just about every video company throttles on mobile. This isn't new. People saying they should demand refunds are being ridiculous. If you didn't like the service/video quality you didn't have to pay for it. Full stop. I'm tired of the sue happy culture developing in our society, unfortunately pushed by popular reality tv presidential candidates. And beyond that, it's not like you could really tell a difference on such a small display anyway. But it's also nice that they're giving people an option now, especially with the popularity of larger phones with higher resolution. But do you guys not remember how bad AT&T's network used to be, especially in cities? If they hadn't done this things may have been much worse.
 

Kaibelf

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Apr 29, 2009
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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.

Um, are you asserting that you subscribed to Netflix solely to watch it on your phone? They don't have to provide that mobile app at all.
 
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Waxhead138

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May 18, 2012
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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.


I think it's an admission of sorts...5 years ago many people still carried unlimited data. Simply put, if they didn't make it well known / bury it in fine print....then the intent was to hide it.

I do find it funny that basically they got caught, gave it a name, and called it a feature lol. A feature you inform people of when attempting to sell a product, back peddling is what you do when you get discovered doing something.
 
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ohio.emt

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Jul 18, 2008
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I don't know why this comes a surprise, I've always seen warnings that my connection will affect the quality of video and by force selecting HQ or HD will cause an increase in data use.
The thing is even if you had the option to force highest quality set in your profile that didn't matter over cellular. The just used a lower bit rate without giving you a choice.
 
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b0nd18t

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2012
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This story is trying to paint Netflix as bad guys, but of course you can't stream full 1080p on a limited data plan.
 
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