Got Bandwidth Caps? Netflix Has You Covered

By  |  Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 7:15 am

Netflix is now letting U.S. users dial down the quality of streaming videos to avoid hitting bandwidth caps.

Users can choose from three quality settings by visiting the “Your Account” page on Netflix’s website and looking for the “Manage Video Quality” link. “Good quality” consumes up to 0.3 GB per hour, “Better quality” burns up to 0.7 GB per hour, and “Best quality” consumes up to 1 GB per hour for standard definition or 2.3 GB per hour for HD. The settings apparently apply to computers and televisions.

Netflix isn’t hiding its reason for offering the quality options: “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,” the quality management web page says. Most recently, AT&T instituted a 150 GB cap for DSL subscribers and a 250 GB cap for U-Verse subscribers.

What’s somewhat surprising to me is that Netflix isn’t publicizing the feature. As DSL Reports’ Karl Bode points out, Netflix added the quality management tool quietly, burying it on an account management page with no announcement. Netflix isn’t above shaming Internet service providers — the company publishes a chart of who streams the service fastest — so the fact that Netflix was driven to this point would seem like another way to paint itself as the consumers’ champion.

But Rich Karpinski at Connected Planet has a different take: Netflix “gets and keeps subscribers by delivering a high quality streaming video service,” he writes. “Limiting bandwidth limits its service.” So Netflix doesn’t want to let on that its streaming is anything less than high quality. If your service provider is putting a limit on usage, however, lower quality is a reality you might have to face.



12 Comments For This Post

  1. Cari Says:

    Gee thanks… So… I have an HDTV, a PS3 that will deliver Netflix, pay for Comcast HD-DVR, High-Speed Internet, Digital Voice, & Netflix is being NICE to me by letting me rent lower quality movies to solve that cap problem? Thanks, but no thanks. Why on earth would I want to pay the same amount for a low quality image that a person who has no cap is paying for an HD image?

    If Netflix really wants to be the champion for their customers (or get a new one to sign up–me!), then they'll help us consumers rally against these data usage caps. Netflix? I've been wanting to use your service for well over a year now, but you won't get this customer until Comcast removes its threshold. Period.

  2. zew Says:

    Netflix is a business and they are doing everything they can to help their customers and potentially new customers, without destroying their business. If you want data caps removed then you need to stand up to the companies and get the consumers rallied against them, don't wait for someone else to do it, and don't ask a business to destroy itself to do it.

  3. Cari Says:

    You have a very valid point, zew, & I thank you. Consider me humbled. I honestly didn't intend for my remarks to come off as me asking Netflix to destroy itself, although when I re-read it that is how the tone of my frustration with data caps made it sound. My irritation/anger is at Comcast (and any broadband company that caps data usage) &, in my frustration, I projected that irritation onto Netflix. My sincere apologies to Netflix on that one–especially since I've heard what a great service they are.

    I haven't waited for someone else to rally against it, though. I've been calling & writing letters about the data caps for quite some time, to no avail. I usually get the standard response (even from very well-meaning folks in tech forums) that I must be the one doing something wrong if I even have to look at, let alone worry about, the usage gauge. No one in my household is, but nonetheless, we do get close to the threshold some months.

    Looking back at that comment I posted, I think my intent was more along the lines of 'if a major company like Netflix at least recognizes that some folks are in a jam due to caps & that they're losing potential business because of it, maybe they can help us push to get rid of the caps altogether since they have a bigger voice & more clout than one little capped customer like me'.

    I sure didn't mean to imply Netflix should do it alone, though. If I were to get word that they & other companies who rely on customers to use allotted bandwidth to utilize their services were pushing against the caps due to loss of business, I'd be right there with them–even more vehemently than I already have been–adding my tiny, but then better-backed, voice to the mix for sure! :-)

  4. Jared Newman Says:

    Did someone on the Internet just concede that someone else on the Internet made a valid counter-argument? Where am I right now? Someone pinch me.

  5. Cari Says:

    LOL! Absolutely, Jared! You sure did! I firmly believe in healthy civil debate as a means to learn & see other sides of issues, don't expect everyone to agree with me, & if I truly see/feel I made a mistake (which I did with the tone of my initial remark), I'll be the 1st to admit it & apologize. Good gravy! I'm sure not perfect! LOL! If we were all perfect all the time, we'd have things like world peace, no hunger, cures for every disease, etc!

    I re-read my remark & realized that, while not intentional, I'm just so darn flustered over the caps I'd taken a tone in my wording that really seemed to aim at the wrong target (Netflix instead of my lovely leash-holder, Comcast). Therefore, when it was pointed out to me, I explained myself & apologized. Seems only right & proper.

  6. Mark Says:

    Yea. And to make the caps more infuriating, just Google US vs Japan broadband. Japan has much higher speeds at lower prices with very HIGH 900 gb caps (and that's just for upstream!). Not to mention there is more "competition in Japan (what we need here). It all boils down to the fact that the Cable companies are afraid to increase speeds and caps for fear that everyone will go to streaming and drop their cable service. Who knows, stifling people's internet service could ultimately backfire on them. I have Windstream DSL that is not capped

  7. Keene Says:

    I won't get cable service. It's too expensive, and if I want to watch a movie I'll go to the theater or rent/buy the dvd. I cancelled Netflix streaming, I assume the dumping of the dvd portion of their business was because they're letting it die out. I honestly don't care if they put it back the way it was, I won't come back. I'm checking out Amazon Prime.

  8. Gypsy3142 Says:

    So my kids and I watched a total of eight 44 minute episodes in 24 hours of a tv show on Netflix. Checked my data usage on Comcast and that used 7 GB 2% of our monthly cap. What I don't understand is Comcast says that 90% of their users use much less than the 250GB cap. So if that's the case, what's the problem? Why is there even a cap at all??? Last month we went about 130GB over our cap from watching Netflix, I expect we'll be hearing from Comcast soon. We have 2 computers and a Wii all streaming Netflix and with us all watching different things, it adds up fast. I don't think Netflix is the problem, I think the caps are. Besides, if Comcast offered a better lineup on their cable channels maybe we wouldn't have to watch Netflix as much!

  9. cj1404 Says:

    AT&T stream TV and Movies via U-verse (250 GB cap + $10.00/ each 50 GB over )

    How is this not an Antitrust case?

    The United States antitrust law is a body of laws that prohibits anti-competitive behavior (monopoly) and unfair business practices. Antitrust laws are intended to encourage competition in the marketplace.
    These competition laws make illegal certain practices deemed to hurt businesses or consumers or both, or generally to violate standards of ethical behavior. Government agencies known as competition regulators, along with private litigants, apply the antitrust and consumer protection laws in hopes of preventing market failure. The term antitrust was originally formulated to combat "business trusts", now more commonly known as cartels. Other countries use the term "competition law". Many countries including most of the Western world have antitrust laws of some form; for example the European Union has provisions under the Treaty of Rome to maintain fair competition, as does Australia under its Trade Practices Act 1974.

  10. blogc2011 Says:

    Looking back at that comment I posted, I think my intent was more along the lines of 'if a major company like Netflix at least recognizes that some folks are in a jam due to caps & that they're losing potential business because of it, maybe they can help us push to get rid of the caps altogether since they have a bigger voice & more clout than one little capped customer like me'.
    law school personal statement

  11. Alex Says:

    Yeah, try having 250 MB of an Internet cap on Hughes Net. If I use even the lowest setting, that is still three times over our Internet cap in a second. So we only have the mailing service for Netflix. Caps definitely suck.

  12. Dan Says:

    I understand everyone that has to deal with a limited amount of bandwidth is frustrated with the caps. I own and operate a rural broadband network and from the ISP side of things I can see the other side of the coin. The price I pay for each megabite of your traffic would make your jaw drop lol. Before every household had Netflix data usage was not nearly as hard to manage. When streaming eats up 90% of the available bandwidth the date caps are put into place to insure that each customer has a fair and equal share of the pie. I challenge anyone to set their streaming quality a notch lower on every device in the house and try to find the difference in quality. This isn’t impairing your movie experience. In fact everyone I had mentioned this to has had better movies due to less buffering and start up time. Your ISP that has usage limits is simply trying to make the user experience fair and balanced for each of their subscribers. Most providers have plans with higher caps designed for households that stream multiple movies, these plans cost more but they need to… A household that has a Netflix streaming will use more bandwidth than around 25 households without streaming. I love my Netflix and don’t have any other TV provider in my home but I understand the cost that it places on the backbone network to deliver it.