Netflix Claims It Was Protecting Customers With Video Throttling, AT&T Is ‘Outraged’

Netflix just came clean about a dirty little secret — they have been throttling video quality for AT&T and Verizon carriers for over five years.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Netflix said […] that for more than five years it has limited its video speeds to most wireless carriers across the globe, including AT&T and Verizon, to “protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps,” which may discourage future viewing.

Essentially, Netflix was forced to unveil the shady practice after outspoken T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, blasted the two largest mobile carriers in the world via a video on his Twitter feed. In the video, Legere claimed that both AT&T and Verizon actually reduce their video resolutions down to 360p. When both companies vehemently denied any such practice, Netflix stepped forward and pleaded guilty.

In its defense, Netflix said that it was acting to protect customers from excessive bills or loss of service.

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“Watching two hours of HD video on Netflix would consume up to 6 gigabytes of data. That is an entire month’s allowance under an $80 a month Verizon plan. We don’t limit our video quality at two carriers: T-Mobile and Sprint, because historically those two companies have had more consumer-friendly policies. When customers exceed their data plans on Sprint or T-Mobile, the carriers usually slow their network connections, rather than charge overage fees.”

The reason Netflix is under so much fire from the two carriers is that their customers have been complaining about poor video quality for years. Since its video throttling ploy has been brought into the light, AT&T has accused Netflix of setting a double standard; On one hand, Netflix has always been a big supporter of the Open Internet, while at the same time, totally lacking transparency about its practice of video throttling.

To make matters worse, in 2014, Verizon threatened to sue Netflix after the video-streaming company accused Verizon of log-jamming Netflix content due to slow data speeds and therefore creating an unpleasant experience. Apparently, Netflix thinks that slowing down data is unacceptable for others; but, when it comes to themselves, it’s perfectly acceptable because hey, they’re “protecting customers.”

Jim Cicconi, a senior executive at AT&T, said, “We’re outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent.”

Of course they’re outraged. Not only has Netflix led AT&T customers to think it was their service that was poor, but think of all the overage charges they lost due to the practice.

Anne Marie Squeo, a member of the Netflix corporate communications team, desperately tried to find a way to salvage the situation despite the fact that Netflix is clearly the player at fault here.

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“It’s about striking a balance that ensures a good streaming experience while avoiding unplanned fines from mobile providers.”

Squeo went on to say that Netflix has done extensive customer testing and has found that subscribers “don’t need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies.”

Squeo also mentioned that Netflix is developing a “data saver” feature, due in May, that will let subscribers set the video quality inside their mobile app. This new feature will give Netflix members the choice to adjust their data consumption settings based on their video preferences and sensitivity to their ISP’s data overage charges.

Hopefully, for Netflix’s sake, the new data feature will be a sincere enough apology to subscribers for keeping them in the video resolution Dark Ages and not giving them an option to choose how they want to use their data.

[Photo by Pascal le Segretain/Getty Images]