Netflix is lowering its default setting for downloading movies and TV shows in Canada in response to internet service providers' monthly caps on the total amount of data consumed.
In a blog posted Monday, Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt said starting immediately, streaming from Netflix will use two-thirds less data on average.
"Now Canadians can watch 30 hours of streaming from Netflix in a month that will consume only 9 GBytes of data, well below most data caps," he wrote, stressing that it would still be possible for users to change their default setting to the best quality.
Under the highest-quality default setting, viewing 30 hours could consume as much as 70 GB, if it was all in high definition. But more typically, 30 hours would use about 30 GB.
Usage-based billing has been making headlines in this country as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission holds hearings on the issue.
The CRTC originally ruled that it would allow large internet service providers, such as Bell and Rogers and Telus, to change their billing practices so they could charge wholesale customers, such as smaller ISPs, by the amount of bandwidth customers used. That would have impeded smaller ISPs from offering customers unlimited plans at lower prices.
Large ISPs stopped offering unlimited plans some time ago, and instead offer a menu of plans with caps from 25 GB to 175 GB or more — essentially usage-based billing.
A public campaign by smaller ISPs and Vancouver-based Openmedia.ca has argued usage-based billing makes the internet unaffordable. The CRTC has since launched a review of its decision, and is holding hearings to discuss the issue.
Meanwhile on Monday, Bell Canada changed its plan to impose usage-based billing on wholesale internet clients.
Bell says it has proposed an alternative plan to the CRTC for an "aggregated volume pricing" structure when charging wholesale customers such as smaller ISPs.
"By enabling wholesale ISPs to purchase network capacity based on overall volume of usage, rather than on a per-customer basis, the new model gives wholesale ISPs greater flexibility to offer service packages based on their own business objectives and requirements," Bell said in the statement.