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Netflix Admits To Throttling Video Quality For Verizon And AT&T Users

The company will allow users to control bitrate streaming in May.

[Photo: Flickr user Global X]

Last week reports swirled that Verizon and AT&T were throttling customers' bitrate speeds while watching Netflix films on their networks, resulting in lower-quality video. The accusations were lobbed against the two telecoms giants by T-Mobile’s CEO. In response, Verizon and AT&T went on the defensive. And now, as the Wall Street Journal reports, it turns out that neither of the companies had anything to do with it. The real perpetrator? Netflix itself.

In a company blog post published on Thursday, Netflix admitted it was throttling the video quality on some carriers, but did not mention Verizon or AT&T by name.

"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," the company wrote. "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."

Netflix goes on to say that its throttling hasn’t been an issue for its users. "Our research and testing indicates that many members worry about exceeding their mobile data cap, and don’t need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies," the company wrote.

That being said, in the same blog post the company has announced that it will soon unveil a "data saver" feature in its mobile apps that will allow users to have more granular control over their streaming quality when viewing videos on mobile networks. The company says this feature will be rolled out in May.

"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 Journal upon hearing about the news.

As for America’s two big other mobile carriers, T-Mobile and Sprint, Netflix says it doesn’t throttle video quality on their networks, citing the fact that "historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies," Netflix said.

Related: What Is The Future of Video?

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