Bit Rate

Netflix Now Lets U.S. Subs Degrade Video to Avoid Hitting Usage Caps

6/22/2011 5:42 PM

Want your VOD movie to look really crappy?

With Netflix, you now can choose to watch your video in poor quality!

To help customers stay under their bandwidth caps, Netflix has quietly introduced a feature that lets U.S. subscribers reduce the quality of their TV shows and movies in order to use less data. Netflix originally developed the capability for its Canadian customers.

netflix.jpg“We know that some of you have Internet data caps and we want to make it easier for you to manage how much data you use,” Netflix says on its site under subscriber account settings. “We offer 3 video quality settings to help you manage your data usage. No matter what level you choose, your Netflix membership price will remain the same.”

The options are “good quality” (up to 300 MB per hour); “better quality” (up to 700 MB per hour); and “best quality (up to 1 GB per hour).

Honestly, those would be better described as “terrible quality,” “not too bad, but not great,” and “pretty good.”

In the States, AT&T implemented usage caps and overage charges for all broadband wireline customers in May. Comcast, Cox and Charter have usage limits but don’t currently charge for additional usage; Time Warner Cable is reportedly interested in revisiting the idea (see Cable Likely To Follow AT&T Into Usage-Based Broadband Pricing: Analyst and Usage Caps Will Now Apply To 56% Of Broadband Users).

Netflix’s introduction of the feature for U.S. users was noted in a post earlier today by ConnectedPlanet.

Recall that Netflix is purportedly the biggest single generator of Internet traffic carried by North American operators, according to Sandvine’s March 2011 survey (see Netflix Represents Nearly 30% Of Peak Downstream Internet Traffic: Study).

Netflix cites cable operators as providing superior streaming-video performance versus telcos, but the company also acknowledges that it doesn’t currently distinguish between DSL and higher-speed services like Verizon FiOS (see Netflix: Cable Is Still Tops For Streaming Video).

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