Netflix owns up to throttling streams for some carriers

And it's been doing it for years

If you're a customer on a certain carrier, you may not have been getting the best quality Netflix streams possible.

Netflix admitted to the Wall Street Journal that it's been throttling its video streaming service to certain carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, and it's been doing so for more than five years.

The news comes after T-Mobile CEO John Legere last week accused these rivals of throttling the service to just 360p, while it offers Netflix streaming at 420p with its BingeOn program.

However, Netflix is the one that's responsible for the throttling, as according to the report, it worries people may stop using the streaming service if it takes up too much of their monthly data allowance.

AT&T and Verizon offered divergent reactions to the revelation.

"Verizon delivers video content at the resolution provided by the host service, whether that's Netflix or any other provider," a Verizon spokesman told the WSJ.

AT&T, for its part, was much more incensed.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, said in a statement sent to techradar: "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent."

Throttle control

Netflix explained in a blog post that it's been capping its streams through mobile carriers globally in an effort to "protect our members from overage charges when they exceed mobile data caps."

Its default bitrate for streaming videos over mobile networks globally is capped at 600 kilobits per second.

"Our research and testing indicates that many members worry about exceeding their mobile data cap, and don't need the same resolution on their mobile phone as on a large screen TV to enjoy shows and movies," Netflix said.

However, the streaming giant said it also recognizes it needs to give its customers more choice as some carriers aren't charging or penalizing for going over data caps, and that some users have a higher data plan. To that end, it will introduce a "data saver" feature in May.

While Netflix didn't reveal the exact details of the feature, it does appear that it will finally give users some control over their own streaming quality, and not be limited to a default bitrate set by the service.

To that end, AT&T and Verizon customers may soon be able to judge for themselves just how much of their data Netflix gobbles up in the future.