Netflix Inc., the United States' premier video streaming service, has admitted that it had been throttling the quality of its videos for customers streaming through America's largest cellular networks, AT&T and Verizon Communications. According to Netflix, such a strategy was used with the consumer in mind.
In an announcement on Thursday, the leading provider of online video content admitted that it was deliberately lowering the video quality to most wireless carriers around the globe. In fact, the practice has been in effect for more than five years now.
Thus, users who have been accusing mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon for deliberately lowering the quality of their video streams were pointing their fingers in the wrong direction.
Though controversial, Netflix has defended its decision, assuring customers that the limitation on video quality was done for the benefit of the consumers, specifically, to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps."
Considering that U.S. mobile carriers only allot a limited amount of data per customer, removing the limiter of the video stream's quality would result in a massive consumption of cellular data. To illustrate, Netflix stated that a user whose videos are not throttled would end up consuming 6GB worth of data for a two-hour full HD movie that is streamed. That amount of data corresponds to Verizon's $80-a-month cellular plan.
For Netflix, removing the data limiters might end up discouraging users from using the service. After all, most U.S. carriers impose stiff penalties and other sanctions for users who consume beyond their monthly data allocation.
Unsurprisingly, the announcement triggered widespread criticism from the companies affected by Netflix's throttling. Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, expressed the telecom provider's sentiment over the issue.
"We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," he said.
Verizon, another company that is directly affected by Netflix's throttling, has not issued a statement as of writing.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, Netflix announced that it is currently developing a series of data-saving tools that would enable mobile users to fine-tune how the streaming service would use their personal cellular data.
"The data saver feature will provide members with more control over their data usage when streaming on mobile networks," Netflix spokesperson Anna Marie Squeo said.