Netflix Throttling Data on Certain Mobile Devices – But Claims They Have a Fix


There’s something interesting about a popular service such as Netflix being blamed for throttling data for their subscribers.

Earlier in the week, Verizon and AT&T were in the hot seat as they were being accused of slowing down Netflix streams, causing the quality of the stream to deteriorate into a pixelated mess. But it turns out one of the world’s most popular companies is actually responsible for the throttling, according to the WSJ.

On the surface, their logic makes perfect sense, keep the streaming quality low enough so that one episode of HD ‘House of Cards’ doesn’t quickly eat up an entire monthly reserve of data. Mobile data is still surprisingly expensive, where 2GB-4GB plans can end up quickly disappearing with active streaming usage.

It also makes sense that perhaps on mobile devices, the quality of the stream isn’t quite as important so perhaps users would appreciate such a technical roadblock, right?

Well it turns out this ends up conflicting with the generic tenants of net neutrality, and that capping data is an inappropriate move, no matter how glorified the reasoning.

Netflix responded to the claim on their blog, explaining that this is only the first step in offering users the ability to minimize their mobile data usage. In other words, they’re not trying to cap anything, rather just testing out functionality to allow Netflix subscribers to control their streaming data usage more effectively.

From the announcement:

The data saver feature will provide members with more control over their data usage when streaming on mobile networks, allowing them to either stream more video under a smaller data plan, or increase their video quality if they have a higher data plan. We’re on track to make it available to members sometime in May.

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.