Netflix released details on how it handles mobile data streaming, and claims that its policy to cap speeds is in the interest of its subscribers.
The content provider notes that mobile networks have a bad habit of charging unreasonable amounts of cash for clients who overstretch beyond their data plan. As a reminder, streaming an HD movie can gulp up to 6 GB in one go, and Netflix admitted to throttling video speeds on AT&T and Verizon.
The company explained in a blog post that people who make use of mobile devices to enjoy video content are at a dilemma.
"We believe restrictive data caps are bad for consumers," Netflix's Anne Marie Squeo says. She notes that the standard bit rate for mobile streaming will be of 600 kilobytes per second, tops.
The restriction aims to achieve "a balance that ensures a good streaming experience," while also helping users stay within their mobile data plans.
Netflix seems to forget that there are exceptions to this rule - U.S. carriers Sprint and T-Mobile are exempt from this capping.
A report from the Wall Street Journal shows why: "Historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies." This simply means that Netflix will abstain from its own capping policy for customers of T-Mobile and Sprint, as the two companies cracked down on data overage in a lighter manner than their rivals.
Having the full information, a few questions arise, especially regarding net neutrality.
In a nutshell, the idea behind the concept of net neutrality is that every website and app was created equal. This implies that both mobile and broadband providers should treat everyone with equity, without practicing different levels of access for various services.
Netflix, however, is a content provider and not a data plan carrier, which gives it free choice on how it decides to craft its policies. The ironic aspect is that the company has a history of advocating for Internet equality, and the latest development tends to place it at an odd angle with its former standpoint.
In spite of the decision's rational side, it is a surprise that Netflix chose to unveil it now. From the reaction of major carriers, the company's action was both unexpected and uncalled for.
Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, points out that his company is "outraged" by the fact that Netflix unilaterally decided to throttle video streaming for their AT&T customers. Cicconi underlines that Netflix did not request consent before enforcing its policy.
To summarize: Netflix will permit users to cut back on video quality so they can stream additional video content. Those who opted for unlimited or hefty data plans can use them to get premium quality on their mobile devices, as well.
Offline-access advocates might not find this to be the best solution to their demands, but putting more choices in the hands of customers to make the call about the quality of their streaming experiences should be a positive signal, nevertheless.
Last week, T-Mobile's CEO John Legere posted a video claiming that his mobile network brings higher-quality video streams than rivals from AT&T and Verizon, which predictably enraged the two data carriers.