Jill Layton
March 25, 2016 10:46 am

Netflix is intentionally lowering video quality for mobile customers who have AT&T and Verizon, which sounds super terrifying, but it’s actually not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s called “throttling,” and Netflix says they are doing it to “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps,” according to a press release on their website. Both AT&T and Verizon charge customers who go over the data limit, so Netflix has decided to help out by capping video streams at 600 kilobits-per-second.

Since kilobits can be confusing, this might make more sense: If you have Verizon’s $80 plan, you’re going to reach your data cap after just two hour-long episodes. So if you watch a full season of Parenthood in one week, you better be ready to shell out more cash. Or if you’re interested in watching a couple documentaries tonight, it’ll cost you.

So if you just can’t stop Netflixing, but you’ve been paying wayyyy over your bill, this could be a huge help. Netflix has been slowly limiting video quality for specific users over the past five years, but not everyone is happy about it.


“We’re outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent,” Jim Cicconi, AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, told the Wall Street Journal. 

It makes sense why the big companies would be upset by Netflix limiting the data for their customers, because if people aren’t aware they’re exceeding their data cap, they’re going to just keep exceeding it. And that means more money for the telecommunications corporations.

Netflix calls the plan a “data saver feature designed for mobile apps,” which 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.” T-Mobile and Sprint customers are the real Netflix winners, because they’re getting higher quality streams. Why? Because those companies don’t charge overage fees.

The feature should be available to members sometime in May.

Here’s a look at a video made by Milan Milanović, a tech professional, that shows the differences in speeds: