Netflix Has A Clever New Plan To Combat Comcast's Bandwidth Policy

While the epic clash of Comcast vs. consumer rages on, streaming service Netflix is officially throwing in on the side of the little guy. Comcast infuriated subscribers earlier this year by adding bandwidth data caps and charging for overages. For all its conveniences, Netflix does require quite a bit of data to stream a movie or episode. Fortunately for Comcast subscribers who love a good marathon of cancelled shows or random movies, Netflix has been working on a way to compress the files on some of its shows that don’t need as much HD quality and so could require less data. Take that!

Netflix is experimenting with how to save bandwidth while providing the same or even a better quality viewing experience. In the past, the version of streaming video has depended on network connection. Now, Netflix plans to stream files based on complexity of content rather than connection.

The change to help Netflix users to deal with Comcast’s new bandwidth policy will not actually affect all of Netflix’s offerings. Shows that could be deemed “visually simple” such as the bright, happy, animated My Little Pony series can have their bandwidth significantly reduced without any major drop in video quality. More complicated live action shows will not be able to make the same sort of changes, but reducing bandwidth requirements overall can only be a good thing for consumers suffering from Comcast’s data cap. Variety looked into the bandwidth savings, and found My Little Pony used nearly four times less data, and bandwidth savings for an episode of Orange is the New Black was at about 20%.

As promising as these changes are for Comcast streamers itching for a Netflix marathon, the new technology has yet to be wide-released to the public. The company has been sending out modified streams to users at random to see if the completion rates are any different than would be expected with the existing bandwidth, however, and Netflix does plan to re-encode thousands of titles in the near future with a complete transition in 2016.

Consumers can absolutely rejoice at the knowledge that Netflix is doing something to adapt to Comcast’s frustrating new policy that has capped data usage and started charging overages. Netflix isn’t the most popular streaming service for nothing, and changing with the times to give subscribers the best possible experience is part of why it’s worth the money for many to subscribe each month. Sure, the vast libraries of shows and movies are a big draw, and the original programming such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black are not to be missed, but a service that rolls with the punches and continues to deliver better and clearer streaming video is likely to keep a loyal base of viewers.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.