Netflix is catching some heat after the video streaming service acknowledged that it's been throttling the quality of its video streams to most wireless carriers around the world, including AT&T and Verizon, the two biggest wireless carriers in the United States. Interestingly enough it was T-Mobile's outspoken boss John Legere who unintentionally threw Netflix under the bus.
Legere posted a 5 minute video to YouTube bragging about bringing YouTube on board as its latest BingeOn partner, along with various other video services. Before Legere got around to actually talking about YouTube, he reiterated the benefits of T-Mobile's BingeOn program and used Netflix as an example.
"BingeOn is a real phenomenon. It's totally changing how our customers stream video for the better. Millions are streaming two times more per day than they were before the launch of BingeOn.," Legere stated. "Netflix, for example, has been with BingeOn since day 1, which I really appreciate."
There's nothing controversial at that point, and Legere goes on to praise Netflix's content such as House of Cards. But after all the back rubbing, he ends up giving Netflix a wedgie.
"You know there's been a lot of noise about watching Netflix with BingeOn, getting your video in DVD quality stream to your mobile device. Now either you've used it and had no complaints or you're with the other guys and you're saying, 'I'd never want that!' Well, here's a little factoid for you. Did you know that when you watch Netflix at 480p the duopoly is actually delivering your Netflix content at 360p. I bet you didn't know that. Go check, it's true," Legere says.
Well, people did check and it turns out that the ire they were directing at AT&T and Verizon should have been directed at Netflix all along. Netflix fessed up to throttling traffic on the two largest wireless networks in the U.S., along with most networks around the globe. Why? Netflix told The Wall Street Journal its intention is to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps," otherwise they may not watch as much content as they do.
Netflix also disclosed the point at which it caps streams—just 600 kilobits per second. That's pretty low compared to what today's high speed networks can handle, but on the other end of the spectrum, Netflix argues that just streaming two hours of uncapped HD video would use 6 gigabytes of data, which is the entirety of Verizon's $80 per month tier.
The cap doesn't apply to T-Mobile or Sprint. Netflix says that's because "historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies." By that Netflix means that if a customer goes over their data allowance, their connections are slowed as opposed to an overage charge.
This could soon be old news. In a blog post on Thursday, Netflix announced the impending roll out of a data saver feature, one that will provide members with more control over their data usage when streaming on mobile networks. At that point, it will be up to consumers to decide if they want to continue receiving throttled feeds to save data or higher quality streams that use more data.