AT&T downgrades video quality on mobile with ‘Stream Saver’

AT&T just introduced a new “feature” much like T-Mobile’s Binge On that will automatically throttles all video streams to a lower resolution and bandwidth unless you opt out of it. They call it Stream Saver, and yes, it applies to “unlimited” data plans.

All video streams it detects, once it goes into effect next year, will be limited to 1.5 Mbps. This should help them — sorry, you — conserve data and avoid running out of your limited unlimited data allowance. And really, who really needs better than “quality similar to DVD” on their phone or tablet’s 1080p screen?

For reference.

For reference.

The data will still count toward your monthly usage, though. So while this qualifies as throttling, it isn’t “zero-rating,” which (as with programs from T-Mobile and Sprint) prevents that streaming data from counting at all.

That means it’s less of a convenience, but also less of an affront to net neutrality — although T-Mobile’s scary claims that it was picking and choosing which providers would be zero-rated turned out to be false (all video was being throttled, “partner” or otherwise). Of course, AT&T does zero-rate other stuff — just not here.

Make no mistake, AT&T is trying to reduce load on their network by automatically cutting video streams down to a fidelity level we left behind years ago. You should receive a message when you’ve been opted into Stream Saver; you should be able to opt out with no penalty.