Here's Why Your Netflix Streaming Quality Sucks

Has the streaming quality on the latest season of Netflix's House of Cards been remarkably lousy on your mobile device? Your problems may be linked to your AT&T or Verizon plan — but it's not your carrier's fault.

After both carriers came under fire for throttling video speeds — a charge both AT&T and Verizon denied — Netflix told the Wall Street Journal that it was to blame for deliberately slowing video speeds and downgrading the quality of your shows. Why? The streaming giant claims it's for your own good, to help you from exceeding your monthly data plan.

A company spokeswoman explained Netflix's throttling in a press release:

"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."

In its online Help Center, Netflix says that watching movies or TV shows uses roughly 1 GB of data per hour for streaming standard definition video and up to 3 GB per hour for HD video. To put this in perspective, for those on an $80 monthly Verizon plan, streaming an HD movie would exceed your data plan allowance after roughly two hours of viewing.

As a response to negative feedback surrounding the news, Netflix is introducing a new "data saver" feature that will launch in May. This will give you easier access to adjusting your data usage. In the meantime, you can customize data usage settings for your account by going to your account and selecting Playback Settings under My Profile (we've got this, plus a host of other Netflix tips, here.)

Even if Netflix had its viewers' best interests at heart, it's clear from the backlash that the company should have disclosed the video throttling to AT&T and Verizon, as well as users. Nobody wants to watch a blurry Claire Underwood pause mid-speech because of low video quality.
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