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Netflix Admits To Capping Video Streams On Wireless Networks (variety.com) 69

An anonymous reader cites a story on Variety: Company says it plans to launch feature to give users control over mobile-video usage in May. Netflix has enforced a maximum limit on the quality of video streamed over AT&T and Verizon wireless networks for years, the company acknowledged Thursday. But Netflix also said it's working on a way to give users control over how much bandwidth they wish to use to access the service. The No. 1 subscription-streaming service said its default bit rate for viewing over mobile networks has been capped at 600 kilobits per second. That's 'in an effort to protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile-data caps,' according to a Netflix spokeswoman.
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Netflix Admits To Capping Video Streams On Wireless Networks

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  • According to the article, Sprint or T-Mobile aren't limited because those ISPs don't charge customers for overage. Maybe what needs to change are Verizon and AT&T's fee structures.

    • by SNRatio ( 4430571 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @09:57AM (#51775623)
      I don't see how it is a violation of net neutrality when you are just throttling your own content as opposed to throttling the content of third parties that you are charged with delivering.
      • by guises ( 2423402 )
        If it really is something that Netflix is doing to keep the telcos from screwing their customers, then yes. I think the implication was of some collusion between Netflix and the telcos here, and that would be a violation of net neutrality.
      • by Quốc ( 4520491 )

        I don't see how it is a violation of net neutrality when you are just throttling your own content as opposed to throttling the content of third parties that you are charged with delivering.

        U Can Up view video for me. Tks u :) Travel Guide One Day In The World https://www.youtube.com/watch [youtube.com] Travel Guide In The World https://www.youtube.com/watch [youtube.com]

  • For what its worth, Netflix was among the net-neutrality supporters [huffingtonpost.com] back in 2014... According to TFA, they were already deliberately degrading videos for certain customers then.

    • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @09:49AM (#51775561) Homepage Journal

      They were not "deliberately degrading videos for certain customers" but rather trying to be consumer-friendly by helping customers avoid costly data cap overruns.

      It would be nice however if this were a configurable option in the player right next to the cc/subtitles option; I have an unlimited plan so I'd toggle it off.

      • You really don't need full quality video on those small screens anyhow. Of course, some small number of users are likely using big screens.
      • by tsotha ( 720379 )
        I'm not surprised Netflix doesn't want to get caught in the middle of disputes in which someone got a $5000 phone bill.
      • Sure, it'd be nice... for you. There are a lot of users who may not have understood the setting. As a general rule in software development, punting a technical decision to a user is wrong.

        Now, maybe they should have asked "are you on an unlimited plan" and used that to control the quality. And have some hidden information so those people who really want to see X at high-def can. That could work. But how many customers does that affect, vs. other improvements.

        See also, the T-mobile BingeOn plan. Everyth

  • by Galaga88 ( 148206 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @09:47AM (#51775551)

    I don't see this as a bad thing. They were only doing it on providers that normally charged for data overages, so it seems likely that they were doing it for the right reasons.

    It is a problem that they weren't disclosing it, but it's not a *huge* problem. This change they're making is what they should have done to begin with, but still - as a user I'm *glad* to see they were dynamically adjusting their data usage when I was on mobile. I wish more applications would do that.

    • I don't see this as a bad thing. They were only doing it on providers that normally charged for data overages, so it seems likely that they were doing it for the right reasons.

      It is a problem that they weren't disclosing it, but it's not a *huge* problem. This change they're making is what they should have done to begin with, but still - as a user I'm *glad* to see they were dynamically adjusting their data usage when I was on mobile. I wish more applications would do that.

      Quit applying common sense and join the "outraged" club!

      Netflix position does make sense. I'm sure ATT and Verizon are disappointed they didn't make a bundle off of overages. And yes, the problem is that Netflix was quiet about the practice. This all goes away when they just make it a user option.

      • by kqs ( 1038910 )

        Agreed. Even if they don't make it an option, as long as they disclose it (probably in the fine print) then I think it's a non-issue.

        When I was younger I wanted thousands of knobs and buttons to fine-tune my internet experience. Nowadays I just want it to work in a largely-reasonable manner. "Lower quality" over wireless is not unreasonable.

      • Of course here's a biggie to think about. Of all these outraged people pissed off at not getting the full bandwidth devouring mega-resolution version they thought they were downloading to their tiny handheld device, before the publishing of this 'revelation', I never once heard anyone complain about the quality of the netflix video on their phones.
        THEY HAD NO IDEA!
        Now mind you, we are talking about a crowd that can pick up when the shader in a video game is off by a tiny amount, or the frame rate is 3% slow
    • I don't see this as a bad thing. They were only doing it on providers that normally charged for data overages, so it seems likely that they were doing it for the right reasons.

      I dont want you to get overages either, which is why I am asking your mobile provider to disconnect you permanently.

      If netflix was "doing the right thing" as so many people have spun this, then it would have been an option and not a mandate. Option good, Mandate evil. This is simple, folks.

    • It's a pretty slippery slope, though. Maybe now they are treating different end-networks differently for "good" reasons, but what's to stop them from striking a deal with t-mobile to deliver lower-quality streams to all its competitors' networks? Net neutrality, that's what.

  • First they should have disclosed they were doing this. Then, there should be an opt-out and/or control so the user can select what bitrates/resolutions they want from the start. Just because someone is on AT&T or Verizon doesn't mean they don't have an older unlimited plan. It also doesn't mean they will be viewing the video on a tiny screen phone (access point mode). Someone else commented they were NOT doing it on Sprint or T-Mobile, and yet the same (in reserve) applies to them... both will THROT

    • by EvilSS ( 557649 )
      It's probably about retaining users. If users get smashed with massive overages for using Netflix, they would say "Fuck this!" and cancel their subscriptions.

      It seems to be more than carrier based as well. I've streamed Netflix via a tethered AT&T phone and it was at 1080p, so they are looking at more than just the source IP for this.
  • I only stream Netflix though mobile hotspots and tethering. I use T-Mobile and have unlimited, but tethering is not unlimited. The problem is Netflix essentially gives you two options for quality, standard 480p which is something like 700MB per hour, and looks bad, or HD, which jumps up to 4-5GB per hour. This is Netflix issue, as I can stream Amazon and Hulu in HD and have it not take anywhere near that much bandwidth. I never understood why they don't offer a 720p HD option which is pretty standard o
    • FYI, if you're using Chrome, Firefox, or Opera, you can't get anything higher than 720p (https://help.netflix.com/en/node/23742).
      • by jetkust ( 596906 )
        I only stream Netflix through Roku or my Smart TV. Amazon claims to stream at 1080p and still doesn't use as much bandwidth as Netflix.
        • I only have netflix so can't compare, but I thought there was an option on roku to change to quality?

    • In Canada, because our ISPs are still giving us monthly data caps from two decades ago, we have three quality options:
      Low - Basic video quality, up to 0.3 GB per hour
      Medium - Standard video quality, up to 0.7 GB per hour
      High - Best video quality, up to 3 GB per hour for HD, 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD

      I'm not counting "auto" since it simply switches between the three qualities as needed.

  • Yes Please! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fatboy ( 6851 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @09:57AM (#51775627)

    But Netflix also said it's working on a way to give users control over how much bandwidth they wish to use to access the service.

    For the love of God please implement this. There is no reason for my kids to eat hundreds of gigs of data so that they can watch Power Rangers Dino Thunder in full 1080P on their Kindles. The Disney Jr app has this feature and you can't tell that Doc McStuffins is on the lowest bandwidth setting.

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      My biggest complaint right now is that these settings aren't device specific. My wife watches a ton of content on a small screen while nursing or daughter. As we were gong over our bandwidth cap monthly, I turned the quality down, on the 13" screen she can't tell the difference. Unfortunately we discovered that also turns down the quality on our WD TV box hooked up to a projector on a 96" screen, and I can tell you it's sure noticeable there!

      Settings like this have no business being global.

      • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

        No not device specific but they are profile specific.

        https://help.netflix.com/en/no... [netflix.com]

        Which is still much easier to deal with than changing the setting on the account each time.

        Hopefully your devices have profiles support.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          So all your suggestions and what shows you want to resume playing etc should be based on device you're on so that you can work around stupid programming? No thanks.
          And no, not all our devices have profile support anyway. Tying this to the profile was an extremely stupid way to implement this feature.

          • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

            I'm down to just one device that doesn't support netflix profiles a 2012 lg smart tv. lg won't update the app and netflix won't give me a way to switch the account that is used for the non compliant devices.

            Still I was glad that I was able to talk them into removing the share on facebook button. Only took several months.

            Afaik it used to be account wide I'm not sure when exactly it became linked to the profile.

            Without question it should have the same type of quality selector option that youtube has had for m

      • Get a decent router with QoS capabilities, and you can limit the rate for individual devices all you want, with as much control as you could possibly ask for. We even limited our Roku since it ate through AT&T's ridiculous 200GB cap every month.

    • by Bengie ( 1121981 )
      Hundreds of gigs is nothing. That's like 2-3 days of normal usage for me. I'm already at 28GiB in the past hour and my network is 75% idle.
  • I mean, what kind of story would have been written when new Netflix 4k streams burn through 18 gigs of wireless data for 1 movie?
  • I think Netflix was doing only what was needed to maintain a acceptable level of quality. We all know nothing is more frustrating then streaming and having pauses while the data feed catches up. In my experience from using cellular data and testing speeds. The service on all carriers is very much hit or miss. I have always experiences significant speed variations even with good signal. I have never believed cellular was that good for streaming high quality video. Besides, just imagine how many teens would b

  • Users should have an option they can opt in or out, but if there was no limit by default how many users would pick 1080 playback on their 480x800 phones ?
  • That is 1.006 GiB every 4 hours.
  • If you're watching Netflix on the desktop using their (excellent) HTML5 player, you can actually set the streaming quality directly.

    Hit CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-S to open up a settings dialogue. You'll get a list of different bitrates (and I think servers - don't have an active subscription at the moment so can't check) for video and audio streams.

    (I watched a shitload of Netflix in the last year and most of it was in a tiny window on my deskop, so I always felt a little guilty about using so much bandwidth. I'd drop

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