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Busted: So this is why your Netflix videos look terrible!

Online streaming video is one of the best things about the Internet, but high-quality video uses a lot of data. On its own, streaming giant Netflix is responsible for more than a third of the Internet's total traffic.

It gets even trickier when you're talking about watching video over cellular networks. While cellular network speed has increased to the point where it can stream high-quality video, cellular carriers aren't too happy about the strain that video puts on their networks.

That's one reason T-Mobile started its Binge-On service. This deal lets customers watch as much video as they want from select services without it counting against their data limit. The trade-off is that T-Mobile drops the video quality from high definition to standard definition.

Customers get their video and T-Mobile's network doesn't get overwhelmed. While there has been some grumbling about Binge-On, T-Mobile customers generally love it.

However, the scuffle about mobile video quality on T-Mobile caused some customers to question the Netflix quality they were getting over the Verizon and AT&T cellular networks. And it turns out that the video quality is much worse than it should be.

At first, everyone accused Verizon and AT&T of throttling Netflix video to ease the load on their networks. Both companies denied this, and, in a surprising turn, Netflix has admitted that it's throttling itself.

For its mobile app on AT&T and Verizon, Netflix set a stream limit of 600 kilobits per second. For comparison, that's only slightly higher than its required minimum speed of 500kbps, and less than half of its recommended minimum streaming speed of 1.5 megabits per second. A DVD quality stream needs 3Mbps, and HD is around 5Mbps.

Netflix says it set up the throttling to help mobile customers avoid hitting their data limits. At full video quality, the average data user could blow through their monthly data in a few hours. When Netflix put this policy in place, going over the monthly data limit on Verizon and AT&T meant hefty overage charges.

The big problem is that Netflix didn't tell anyone it was doing this. Now that there's been a public outcry about it, Netflix says it will look in a new system that lets customers choose the video quality based on their data plan.

Is your Netflix quality at home not too great? Find out what the cause could be and how to get smoother streaming video.

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