Netflix Bandwidth Settings Announced for Capped Users in Canada

Josh WolfordIT Management

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Earlier this month, AT&T announced an end to uncapped internet, saying that on May 2nd it will begin limiting DSL customers to 150 GB per month of usage. Usage caps have become much more strict for our neighbors up north, with caps in some cases going from 200 GB per month to 25 GB. Ouch.

Netflix wants to help the internet starved Canadians! Late last night, Netflix CPO Neil Hunt announced via the official Netflix blog that data usage is being lowered by 2/3 for members in Canada.

According to Hunt, watching 30 hours of streaming Netflix content typically consumes about 30 GB. If all of that content was in HD, it could consume up to 70 GB. Both of those numbers are well over some of the limits on Canadian internet users.

Here are the three new settings, complete with their usage numbers:

1. "Good" - The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GB/hour)
2. "Better" - Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GB/hour)
3. "Best" - Best picture quality and highest date use per hour (generally about 1.0 GB/hour - or up to 2.3 GB/hour when streaming HD content)

Doing the math, a person who streamed 30 hours of content in a month would use 9GB on the "good" setting, 21 GB on the "better" setting and 30-69 GB on the "best" setting. More specifics about each setting:

The "good" setting limits video/audio to 625 kbps/64 kbps. The "better" setting limits video/audio to a maximum of 1300 kbps/192 kpbs. The "best" setting will use any of the video/audio rates available. Our highest quality files are 4800 kbps (for 1080p HD video) and 384 kbps audio (for 5.1 audio). 30 hours of this highest quality streaming would be less than 67 GBytes. However, only a selection of movies and TV shows are available at these rates, and in many cases, the effective video/audio upper limit for non-HD content is 2200 kbps/192 kbps.

Hunt also notes that frequent pauses, stops and seeking will sightly increase your usage, as Netflix streams a small amount of data as a buffer each time you perform one of those actions. He also says that there should be some lessening of the video quality, but that it should be "minimal." Viewers can toggle their settings anytime on the "Manage Video Quality" page.

I'm going to be honest. When the quality bar on my Netflix streaming dips below 4 bar HD, I throw a mini tantrum. I have an HD television and a broadband connection, which means I should never have to suffer inferior picture quality, dang-it! The thought of having to choose a "good" setting instead of "best" makes me uncomfortable.

Although that might be a tad dramatic, how far away are severe usage caps in the States? A commenter on this Netflix blog post asks, "Any chance we'll get this in America, too? I'm getting capped by AT&T and would love to have this option."


Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf