Unlike Netflix, Facebook doesn't degrade video for specific mobile carriers

Facebook said it doesn't degrade the quality of its video for specific mobile network operators, unlike Netflix. But whether Amazon or YouTube do is still uncertain.

When asked whether Facebook degrades video for some network operators based on their data policies or any other factors, a company spokesman flatly said no. But YouTube failed to return multiple inquiries from FierceWireless on the matter, and Amazon said it was still looking into the matter.

Netflix garnered unwanted headlines last week when it confirmed to The Wall Street Journal that it throttles the transmission of video it makes available to AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ). The concession confirmed a claim by T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) CEO John Legere that Netflix's content is transmitted at a lower resolution over the networks of the two biggest U.S. carrier's than over T-Mobile's network.

Netflix said it caps its streams at 600 Kbps for those carriers to protect users from exceeding their monthly data buckets and thereby facing overage fees, which could lead to reduced viewing. The company cited the "mobile consumer-friendly policies" of T-Mobile and Sprint, which slow network speeds rather than charging overages when users hit their monthly allotments.

The policy doesn't violate net neutrality rules because those regulations apply only to ISPs rather than Internet companies. But it could complicate regulatory issues for web-based companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Google and Amazon, a Guggenheim Partners analyst said earlier this week.

The nation's two largest mobile carriers said they had no idea of Netflix's throttling practices until the news came to light. Netflix recently said in a blog post that it plans to introduce a "data saver" feature to help users watch mobile video while minimizing their data consumption.

Facebook also said that it hasn't received requests from carriers to provide lower-resolution video to ease the payload on their networks. Legere's comments raised speculation that perhaps Verizon and AT&T requested lower-quality content, but both carriers denied those claims.

Netflix's disclosure highlights the fine line both carriers and content providers must walk when transmitting data-heavy content while minimizing network traffic. Few, if any, consumers complained about the inferior quality of Netflix's content over the networks of Verizon and AT&T, just as Binge On has gained considerable traction despite the fact that T-Mobile degrades the quality of video for users of the service.

Video is particularly data-rich, of course, which is why so many compression companies and apps exist to lighten its data load while preserving quality as much as possible. Perhaps it's unsurprising, then, that Netflix has been throttling its content to keep its mobile users watching without getting hit with overages. The unanswered question is who else is implementing the same policies.

Related articles:
Netflix downgrades mobile video for Verizon and AT&T, drawing ire
Verizon, AT&T flatly deny Legere's claims that they provide lower-resolution Netflix video than T-Mobile
T-Mobile: Customers have watched 34 petabytes of video for no additional fee since Binge On launch
T-Mobile adds YouTube, adult content and more to Binge On
T-Mobile's Legere slams 'jerks' who question Binge On policies

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