Earlier this year Netflix announced that it would cut streaming video quality to reduce the amount of bandwidth consumed by its users during the pandemic. With more people working from home than ever before, the company’s decision made sense at the time.
However, it has now been almost two months and Netflix customers in Europe and the UK are upset with the streaming service for still delivering throttled HD and Ultra HD video with bit rates at less than 50 percent of their normal capacity in some cases as reported by Variety.
The streaming service’s users say that the reduced bit rates are causing noticeable degradation of image quality such as blurring and pixelation on larger televisions.
Netflix users are upset about this because the company charges different subscription rates based on video quality. For instance, its entry-level Basic plan only allows users to stream in SD while its Standard tier provides HD quality and its Premium plan is required to stream in Ultra HD.
Streaming quality issues
At the moment, Netflix does not have a specific timeline in place for when bit rates in Europe will be returned to their original levels. However, in a statement to Variety, a company spokesperson explained that the streaming service will lift bit rate caps once network conditions improve, saying:
“As network conditions improve we will begin lifting the bit-rate caps we introduced in March on a country-by-country basis. In the last two months we’ve added more than four times the normal capacity to deal with the increased demand and help maintain the quality of our service for members.”
This means that Netflix’s streaming quality will eventually return to normal. However, Premium users still paying $15.99 a month to watch content in 4K are paying for better video quality which they’re not getting. In a blog post back in March, the company’s VP of content delivery, Ken Florance made the bit rate caps sound much less worse than they’ve turned out to be, saying:
“If you are particularly tuned into video quality you may notice a very slight decrease in quality within each resolution. But you will still get the video quality you paid for.”
European Union Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton urged Netflix to throttle bit rates over concerns that ISPs would be strained with millions of people stuck at home. That hasn’t been the case though as European internet networks have handled the increase in traffic without major congestion.
Hopefully Netflix begins increasing the bit rates of its streaming video soon or else customers may turn to other streaming services for their content.