Netflix Is Intentionally Lowering Video Quality for Some Customers

No, you weren't just imagining it.

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

Netflix admitted Thursday that they intentionally lower video quality for customers with AT&T and Verizon, according to the Wall Street Journal

The practice is called "throttling," and the Netflix says they do it to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps," according to the report. So, the company caps video streams at 600 kilobits-per-second for those carriers, which charge you if you go over your limit. Otherwise users would consume their entire month's allowance after just two hours of streaming with Verizon's $80 plan. So basically, Netflix was worried if you reached your cap after just two episodes of House of Cards, it would discourage you from using the service. 

The company says it's been slowing down the quality for certain users for more than five years. And in a statement posted on their site, they claim, "This hasn't been an issue for our members."

"We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, told the Wall Street Journal. (Worth noting: AT&T would likely profit—big time—from Netflix ceasing this practice.)

Netflix says people who have T-Mobile and Sprint are getting higher quality streams, because those companies don't charge overage fees if you exceed your limit. Here's a video Milan Milanović, who works in the IT industry and was one of the first to notice the lower speeds, posted to show the difference.

Netflix says in the statement a new data-saving feature will be rolled out in May. No details on the feature yet, but it better mean maximum viewing quality for the new season of Orange Is the New Black.  

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Kate Storey

Kate Storey is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and writer-at-large at Esquire magazine, where she covers culture and politics. Kate's writing has appeared in ELLE, Harper's BAZAAR, Town & Country, and Cosmopolitan, and her first book comes out in summer 2023.