Netflix Has Quietly Been Throttling Mobile Video for Years

Illustration for article titled Netflix Has Quietly Been Throttling Mobile Video for Years

Netflix has been a vocal supporter of net neutrality for years, but behind the scenes, it turns out the company hasn’t been treating all customers the same. Netflix confirmed to the WSJ that it has been restricting the bandwidth of video for customers on AT&T and Verizon for five years.

Netflix says it’s been capping video streams at 600kbps, just about enough for a pixelated 360p video. It claims that by doing so, it’s saving the data cap of customers on AT&T and Verizon. The company says that it doesn’t throttle T-Mobile or Sprint customers because those carriers have “more consumer-friendly policies.”

The policy is understandable—Netflix doesn’t want people to get shocking data overage bills because of its app—but the secrecy is not. It also complicates Netflix’s stance as a net neutrality advocate. Net neutrality dictates that every site and service on the internet should be treated equally by internet service providers, so that Comcast can’t charge you more for going to Google rather than Bing.

Advertisement

Netflix throttling some customers doesn’t technically break that rule—Netflix isn’t an ISP—but it skirts dangerously close to breaking the principle of treating all packets the same. It takes the choice out of the hands of consumers, and ultimately creates confusion—as demonstrated in this case, where T-Mobile CEO John Legere originally thought that AT&T was responsible for the throttling.

Trying to protect customers against high bills is one thing, but it should be done transparently and sensibly. A secret, no-choice throttling regime against people with the wrong network is the exact opposite.

[Wall Street Journal]

Contributing Editor

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`

DISCUSSION

jasonahowie
Jason A. Howie

“It also complicates Netflix’s stance as a net neutrality advocate. Net neutrality dictates that every site and service on the internet should be treated equally by internet service providers so that Comcast can’t charge you more for going to Google rather than Bing.”

Not really, this is a stretch of an argument.

Net Neutrality: the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.

Netflix isn’t an internet service provider, nor are they preventing access to products or websites. They’re slowing their services so that Verizon and At&t customers do not get sky high bills. Further, they might be trying to prevent At&t and Verizon from lowering consumer’s bandwidth when using Netflix.

A comparison of your statement is saying that farmers that fight tolls on highways because it increases the prices of their goods can’t then instruct drivers to use slower toll-free roads to keep prices lower for their end consumers.