Netflix Slashes Data Usage for Canadian Subs

U.S. video streaming giant drops Canadian data usage by two-thirds to stop major Internet service providers from charging steep overage fees.

TORONTO – Check this out: Netflix has dropped the bandwith usage for its Netflix Canada subscribers by an average two-thirds.

“We made these changes because many Canadian Internet service providers (ISPs) unfortunately enforce monthly caps on the total amount of data consumed,” Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, said on the company’s blog site.

In answer to Netflix expanding into Canada in September 2010, major ISPs like Rogers Communictions and Bell Canada ended unlimited data packages for heavy users.

The major ISPS have also angered Internet users and the federal government by proposing to force third-party ISPs to follow their lead and end unlimited data packages for bandwith-hogs.

With Internet usage now a hot-button issue north of the border, Netflix said Canadians can now watch 30 hours of streaming video from Netflix Canada in a month and consume only 9 GBytes of data, short of most data caps that lead to huge overage fees.

Until now, Canadians that viewed 30 hours of Netflix Canada film and TV programming in HD could use up as much as 70 GBytes.

“While there is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, the experience continues to be great,” Hunt blogged.

Netflix Canada subscribers that choose not to sacrifice picture quality can reset back to the higher data usage level.

Netflix’s move to reduce data consumption comes at an opportune time: Canada is in the midst of a federal election and the governing Conservatives have threatened to stop major ISPs from punishing heavy Internet users by ditching their unlimited data plans through third-party providers.

Feeling the political heat, Bell Canada on Monday offered a compromise that would allow third-party ISPs to determine how they bill their customers, as long as they covered data overages.

“By enabling wholesale ISPs to purchase network capacity based on overall volume of usage, rather than on a per-customer basis, the new model gives wholesale ISPs greater flexibility to offer service packages based on their own business objectives and requirements," Bell Canada said in a statement.

Smaller ISPs have fought attempts by major carriers to force an end to unlimited data plans because they argue they require flat-rate pricing for unlimited Internet data packages to attract subscribers.