Netflix is putting control back in the hands of its users.
The online video giant on Thursday rolled out a new set of cellular data controls that will help viewers better manage how much data they use when streaming video via their cellular network.
The control panel includes five different streaming options that allow customers to choose Wi-Fi-only streaming, low, medium or high bitrates with varying data usage or unlimited data usage. The low setting allows users to stream about four hours of content per gigabyte of data, while the medium and high settings allow for two and one hours of streaming per GB, respectively.
Netflix said the default streaming setting will be the low option, which amounts to a bitrate of around 600 kilobits per second.
“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,” Netflix director of Product Innovation Eddy Wu wrote in a blog post. “If you have a mobile data plan with a higher data cap, you can adjust this setting to stream at higher bitrates. Our goal is to give you more control and greater choice in managing your data usage whether you’re on an unlimited mobile plan or one that’s more restrictive.”
Wu said the cellular data controls only affect mobile device viewing on cellular networks; the controls do not impact Wi-Fi or tethered streaming.
The controls can be accessed on both iOS and Android devices in the “Cellular Data Usage” section of the “App Settings” menu, Wu said.
Netflix’s introduction of cellular data controls follows the company’s controversial admission in March that it throttled video speeds for AT&T and Verizon customers for nearly five years in an effort to help them avoid hitting their data caps. The company reportedly did not slow the streams of Sprint or T-Mobile customers because it said those carriers had “more consumer-friendly policies.”
AT&T and Verizon expressed outrage at the revelation. Netflix was said to be working on “new ways to give members more control” in the wake of the scandal.
Oddly enough, Netflix’s new default setting is the same cap it formerly imposed on unsuspecting wireless users.
In Thursday’s post, however, Netflix warned actual data usage can vary based on device capabilities and network conditions. The company also said mobile carriers can also potentially impact actual data usage even if users select higher settings on the control panel.