Netflix, without fanfare, has taken steps to address the problems of users who hit bandwidth caps while streaming videos, and that is to lower the quality of those videos. Customers are offered a choice of video quality; the lower the quality, the less bandwidth is used. Recognizing that different users had different data caps available to them led Netflix to adopt a more flexible program. However, Netflix didn’t really want to emphasize that they were offering a lower quality product; hence the under-the-radar approach. It does make sense for the varying programs, and here are some of the reasons for that approach, and other related issues that Netflix faces with bandwidth limitations.
- Data Caps – ISP costs, for the consumer, can skyrocket when caps are reached, and HD videos can really take up a lot of that room.
- Canadian Customers – North of the U.S. Border our Canadian neighbors are used to low bandwidth caps from their cable ISP’s; if Netflix hopes to survive in the Great White North different programs need to be made available.
- Battle with ISP’s – With a triangle of interests that involves end-users, ISP’s and Netflix, the folks at Netflix don’t want to be seen as the bad guy when prices escalate. The ISP’s make an easy target to paint as the greedy side of the triangle, especially since many of them are lowering available data caps and charging astronomical sums for over-usage.
- Congestion – Depending on where a consumer lives, upload and download speeds can vary significantly, and this is an area of major concern for Netflix.
- Different Companies, Different Capabilities – Netflix realizes that different companies offer different qualities of streaming, and Netflix needs to take necessary action to ensure that the weaknesses of those companies are addressed in its own offerings.
- Home Use Issues – Netflix has to “compete” for bandwidth use within the sphere of the home user. If other programs or computers in a household use up a lot of available bandwidth, it is in the interests of Netflix to provide various performance levels.
- Too Big? – Particularly in the evening “prime-time” hours, Netflix takes up what many consider to be an inordinate amount of available bandwidth, as much as 30%, and this causes great concerns.
- Legal Problems – If the Netflix percentage of bandwidth continues to rise, it may force the government to step in and impose limits, which Netflix most definitely does not want; an in-house approach to the problem would be preferable.
- Net Neutrality – One of the problems Netflix faces in helping to maintain Net Neutrality is its own success; it has grown to the point that many feel it will upset a delicate and precarious balance among all users of the Internet.
- Good Neighbor – In a world of almost-instant trends, Netflix will have to do more than try to picture others as villains in “bandwidth” wars; this means Netflix will need to be in the vanguard of new technology, even to the point of overcoming weaknesses in ISP’s and home-use computers.
Bandwidth, as it is now configured, is finite, and may be nearing limits. Companies like Netflix that strive for continued expansion will have to do better than lesser-quality offerings if they hope to avoid falling-by-the-wayside as technology continues its inexorable advance.