Netflix Canada has changed the default quality setting for video streams in response to monthly bandwidth data caps set by Canadian Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Users can still switch back to the old option if they do not want to sacrifice quality.

In the past, viewing 30 hours of Netflix content could consume as much as 70GB, if it was all in HD, and typically about 30GB. Now, Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month and only consume 9GB of data, well below most data caps. There is some lessening of picture quality with these new settings, but Netflix insists "the experience continues to be great."

If a Netflix member wants to change back to higher data usage and video quality, they can do so on the Manage Video Quality page, found under Your Account. There are now three settings there:

  • Good (video/audio is limited to 625 kbps/64 kbps) - The default setting with good picture quality and lowest data use at about 0.3GB/hour
  • Better (video/audio is limited to 1300 kbps/192 kpbs) - Better picture quality and medium data use at about 0.7 GB/hour
  • Best (the best video/audio rates available, 2200 kbps/192 kbps for non-HD content and 4800kbps/384kbps for HD content) - Best picture quality and highest date use at about 1.0 GB/hour or up to 2.3GB/hour when streaming HD content

At all settings, Netflix adaptive streaming may choose a lower data rate stream if you have a slower connection or if there is congestion, in order to minimize interruptions. At the same time, Netflix streams a little bit of additional data as a buffer each time you start a movie or TV show. Frequent starts and stops, or rewind/seek activity, will slightly increase the amount of data Netflix streams to you per hour but in most cases this will amount to less than a few minutes' worth.