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Netflix Now Lets Customers Control Phone’s Data Instead of Capping It

After limiting mobile video quality for years, Netflix rolls out manual settings for the streams subscribers watch on their phone

Netflix has launched options allowing customers to choose the video quality of the streams they watch on their mobile devices, following news from weeks ago that Netflix had been capping image quality all along.

In March, the streaming-video giant confirmed that it limits the quality of its video when customers are streaming over a mobile network. The company’s admission came after years of criticizing connectivity providers who sought their own ways to manage data-heavy video streams.

The company said then that Netflix streams were capped at 600 kilobits per second globally when delivered over mobile networks, which means customers couldn’t watch a higher-quality video if they wanted to.

Thursday’s announcement represented Netflix delivering on plans for “data saver” features for mobile apps in May. The company said that now, a default setting will keep the bitrate at that same 600 kilobits per second level, but now customers can adjust their personal settings to stream at higher rates.

“Our testing found that, on cellular networks, this setting balances good video quality with lower data usage to help avoid exceeding data caps and incurring overage fees,” Eddy Wu, the company’s director of product innovation, said in a blog post.

To make changes, update your Netflix app on iOS or Android to the most recent version, select “App Settings” from the menu, and go to “Cellular Data Usage.” There, you can toggle off the default and select the usage setting that suits your mobile data plan, including an unlimited option, the company said.

Netflix’s earlier admission about capping image quality at lower rates followed years of the company advocating “strong Net Neutrality,” the notion that Internet providers should deliver all data without preference or discrimination. The company lashed out at providers like Comcast for exploring strategies like fast and slow “lanes” for different kinds of traffic on broadband networks.

But Net Neutrality principles apply to service providers, not content companies like Netflix. The company, the world’s No. 1 subscription streaming video provider, already has features in place that automatically adjust the bitrate of its streams to best suit the device and network handling them.