Neil Hunt, chief product officer of Netflix, wrote on the company’s blog that "because many Canadian Internet service providers unfortunately enforce monthly caps on the total amount of data consumed," starting today Netflix is lowering data usage for its movie streaming service in Canada.

"In the past, viewing 30 hours of Netflix could consume as much as 70 GB, if it was all in HD, and typically about 30 GB," wrote Hunt. "While there is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, the experience continues to be great."

Based on the 30-hour-a-month standard, Netflix has created three settings for Canadian users:

  • "Good" – The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use per hour (about 0.3 GB/hour). The setting limits video/audio to 625 kbps/64 kbps. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be up to 9 GB per month.
  • "Better" – Better picture quality and medium data use per hour (about 0.7 GB/hour). The setting limits video/audio to a maximum of 1300 kbps/192 kpbs. With this setting, 30 hours of content would be less than 20 GB per month.
  • "Best" – For the best picture quality and highest data use per hour (generally about 1.0 GB/hour – or up to 2.3 GB/hour when streaming HD content), this setting will use any of the video/audio rates available. Netflix’s highest quality files are 4800 kbps (for 1080p HD video) and 384 kbps audio (for 5.1 audio). 30 hours of this highest quality streaming would be less than 67 GB. However, only a selection of movies and TV shows are available at these rates, and in many cases, the effective video/audio upper limit for non-HD content is 2200 kbps/192 kbps. At that rate, 30 hours of streaming is less than 31 GB.

Members can adjust their settings anytime by visiting the Manage Video Quality page. At all settings, Netflix adaptive streaming may choose a lower data rate stream if a member’s connection is lower speed or, in the case of congestion, in order to minimize interruptions.

Also, at all settings, Netflix streams a little bit of additional data as a buffer each time a video is started.

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