Netflix Working on ‘Data Saver’ for Mobile Apps

Netflix confirmed Thursday that it’s working on a “data saver feature” for mobile apps following a report in The Wall Street Journal about a policy in which Netflix reduced the quality of video delivered on AT&T and Verizon cellular networks, but not on those operated by T-Mobile or Sprint because the latter have historically implemented sed “more consumer-friendly policies.”

AT&T said it was “outraged” by it, claiming it was akin to “throttling” those streams without consumer  consent.

Netflix is a supporter of Binge On, T-Mobile’s optional video optimization service that limits streams to 480p and exempts partner traffic from its data-usage policies. T-Mobile recently adjusted its policy to provide more info on the option and an easier way for subs to toggle the service on and off, moves that Google and YouTube approved of after originally railing against the  Binge On program over claims that it was throttling its streams.

Sprint used to throttle the streams of heavy users, but stopped that practice last year after the policy came under fire.

In a blog post, Netflix official Anne Marie Squeo announced that Netflix would soon “give members more control over their Netflix experience,” as the OTT provider aimed to introduce a new data saver feature that is “on track” to become available to Netflix subs sometime in May that will let them adjust their data consumption settings.

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

She said Netflix’s research showed that “many members worry about exceeding their mobile data cap, and don’t need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies. However, we recognize some members may be less sensitive to data caps or subscribe to mobile data plans from carriers that don’t levy penalties for exceeding caps.”

More details about the feature will be shared closer to launch, she said.

The matter heated up last week when T-Mobile CEO John Legere called out AT&T and  Verizon for throttling video, and Verizon shot back with a statement that his assertion was “dopey” and “has no basis in fact at all.”

Amid the latest news, which found that it was Netflix, not AT&T and Verizon, that were limiting the video streams, Legere weighed in with a Periscope video in which stirred the pot again by wondering if AT&T and Verizon were being evasive on the subject. “No one has accused AT&T and Verizon of ‘throttling,’ but did they knowingly have this…and not tell customers?” he asked.