Netflix confesses to throttling video speeds for AT&T and Verizon customers

by: Rob TriggsMarch 25, 2016
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Netflix Shutterstock

Last week, you may have spotted that AT&T and Verizon were under fire for allegedly throttling the quality of videos streamed from Netflix, but they vehemently denied the claims. Shockingly enough, it turns out that the carriers are in the clear this time. Netflix has admitted that it is behind the reduced video quality and has been enforcing limits for a number of years.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix confessed that the company has been throttling video streams for AT&T and Verizon customers for more than five years. Netflix limits these mobile streams to 600 kbps, which is considerably slower than the speeds achievable over most mobile connections.

The reason is apparently to “protect customers from exceeding mobile data caps.” That sounds rather reasonable of Netflix, but remember that the company is also concerned that customers will stop using its service if it uses up all of their data allowance. Strangely enough Netflix has been at the forefront of supporting of net neutrality rules, but also admits that it has not been limiting the streaming quality for customers with US carriers Sprint and T-Mobile. Apparently, this is because “historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies,” were consumers aren’t charged for exceeding their data limits.

“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 senior executive vice president

This isn’t the first and probably won’t be the last throttling saga to hit mobile businesses this year. T-Mobile already found itself facing complaints from content providers about its controversial “Binge-On” plan, which throttles all video data if consumers don’t turn the switch off. Sprint was also forced to abandon its broad throttling practises last year after a public backlash.

TMO_BINGE-ON_Lockup-RGB_MAGSee also: YouTube joins Binge On, will handle optimization instead of T-Mobile12

There is clearly a balance to be struck between mobile video quality and file sizes that are appropriate for limited data allowances, but a blanket caps on specific networks doesn’t seem like a particularly consumer friendly approach. Fortunately, Netflix states that it is looking into new ways to give its members more control over video quality and is working on a mobile “data saver” option, which will begin rolling out in May. Problem solved?

  • James Childress

    That explains why even my Samsung tablet won’t get 1080p streams(has a 1440p display). It is capable of much higher video stream quality as evidenced by streaming content via youtube at it’s native resolution. So Netflix is also affecting non-cellular customers with their throttling. This needs to stop. I pay for the streaming tier that includes UHD(2160p).

    • Zirq

      That sounds completely unrelated and a different issue entirely.

      • moew

        Sounds about right. If they are limiting to 600kbps, that’s 640×480 with x.264. So are you saying that his 2160p plan should only be getting 480p?

        or another way, he pays for UHD, but only gets enough throughput from the source for VGA. Put that on your big screen and try not to complain!

        • Zirq

          Not at all. The article sounds like it’s regarding mobile/cellular providers only, and he said “So Netflix is also affecting non-cellular customers with their throttling”. I only skimmed the article, so if it’s about Netflix affecting regular Verizon and AT&T ISPs, and not just mobile networks, my mistake.

          • Sojibby

            Awfully gracious of you to be so friendly to someone who didn’t even read what you replied to.

          • moew

            >Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix confessed that the company has been throttling video streams for AT&T and Verizon customers for more than five years.

            Also it doesn’t say specifically cellular, there are landline services offered by both companies. That’s kinda implied in the article here.

          • Zirq

            You forgot to quote the rest of that. Immediately following your quote, it continues to “Netflix limits these mobile streams to 600 kbps, which is considerably slower than the speeds achievable over most mobile connections.”

            I don’t really care to debate reading comprehension, however. Sticking with the article, I’d suggest James googles “slow wifi streaming” for some basic help (internet speed or router are the most likely culprits), on his specific issue, which is different than what the article speaks of.

          • moew

            Nice side track. However I’m agreeing with OP and I AM on one of those mobile networks with a tablet with twice his resolution.

            Never, ever looked like HD on the tablet. Almost thought it was the tablet until I tried wifi on something not controlled by them. I then proceeded to just think that ATT sucked ass.

            So there you have it, pay for UHD and get VGA like a previously stated. Put that on your big screen TV and try not to complain.

          • James Childress

            My wifi isn’t slow nor is my cable connection. It’s 33mbps. As I previously said, I was able to achieve 1440p streaming via you tube while Netflix limits to 720p on my mobile device via their app. I do get UHD on my 4K Sammy TV via their app with no issues or buffering. There is actually a hidden streaming diagnostic video on Netflix called “El Fuente”. It reports both bandwidth and resolution while it plays.

          • Sojibby

            “The reason is apparently to “protect customers from exceeding mobile data caps.””

            It says specifically mobile at least twice.

            Let’s move on.

          • moew

            It’s not one continuous quote, so there’s probably a LOT more inbetween.

            That part says mobile, the other part does NOT.

          • Sojibby

            You’re kidding right? This is about mobile. And only mobile. That is extremely clear.

            Believe what you want I won’t continue to argue pointlessly with someone who won’t/cannot read but needs the last word.

          • moew

            Read below, my tablet is on a mobile plan. When I say it has a sim card, that means it’s on mobile, but you missed that. It’s the Soji and Zirq show! Wow, just wow.

          • Sojibby

            We are not talking about your tablet, crazy. And the article is not talking about anything but mobile. You’re trying to change the goalposts. Again move on.

          • moew

            Nice diversion. However we are talking about Netflix on my tablet on a mobile network. It never looked right, nowhere even 1080p, but I could classify it into the slightly better 480p (which matches the article’s bandwidth throttle).

            On wifi, it’s crystal clear.

            So there’s that. Not sure how many times I have to reiterate the facts for you. Seems you are on a personal mission to only insult me for some reason. Perhaps you work for Netflix?

          • Sojibby

            Sure you were. You never once said the article wasn’t about just mobile networks. Give it up buddy.

          • moew

            My first reply wasn’t what you are not talking about because it wasn’t what it was not. Now you are just attacking me personally.

          • Sojibby

            Crazy

          • Sojibby

            You are actually agreeing with us now and claiming you didn’t change your opinion. Lol. Too funny.

          • moew

            Wow, you are certainly delusional. Give it up buddy.

          • Sojibby

            Lol crazy.

          • moew

            My tablet does 2x his resolution and has a sim card in it.

        • Sojibby

          Yup, that’s obviously what he said. Uh huh. The first guy is talking about his tablet on a wifi connection. Are you saying that throttling tmobile is the same as throttling wifi? Don’t think so.

      • James Childress

        Maybe, maybe not. Netflix has been holding back mobile devices for some time. This has been a known issue with the app without any explanation from Netflix as to why. Even had that issue on my previous tablet a Motorola Xoom.

    • Mark Mann

      are you on at&t or verizon high speed internet? or…

      • James Childress

        Nope….landline cable(Optimum) via wi-fi.

    • Randy N. Gaston

      Are you watching Netflix though the app or a browser? Try using the other method and see if there is any change.

      • James Childress

        The app.

  • neonix

    Of course, someone from AT&T is publicly “outraged” about this, but has no comment regarding Netflix’s understandable reasoning that shows AT&T’s own shitty service policies are to blame.

  • Wolf0491

    I don’t recall my few times using Netflix app that the quality seemed bad. Unless they can tell I’m on an unlimited plan somehow and didn’t throttle it.

    • abn

      I paid unlimited for all my phones. No throttling ever. Watched netfix at work on phone the whole Breaking bad series never seen any fluctuations in picture quality. So either I really have good eye’s or they missed me. If I even noticed a flux Id be on the phone bitchn

  • Eleazar Parham

    Good job Netflix. No matter what was the case they aren’t wrong about verizon. For months they kept charging me for things at outrageous amounts and wouldn’t explain to me why it was. I would pay the bill on time and be all caught up and two weeks later I would get another $200 bill threatening to cut my service. I switched to T-Mobile after all of that and I’m never going back to Verizon. They’re just a bunch of thugs

    • abn

      Yea The big V. There full of crap

  • abn

    Never noticed it.