AT&T to throttle video stream to let customers save on data

AT&T Inc plans to offer wireless subscribers the ability to stream lower-quality video to save on data charges, an industry practice that had led to  concerns over equal treatment of internet content.

Starting early 2017, AT&T customers would get  the option to use Stream Saver, a video-delivery setting providing DVD-quality, 480p-screen resolution, according to a statement Friday. The feature would be optional offered at no additional cost,  according to the company.

AT&T's move comes after T-Mobile US Inc, which became the first US wireless carrier to offer customers free data for viewing web videos as part of its Binge On program.

The feature had drawn the attention of regulators and consumer advocates who fear wireless carriers might be differentiating between traffic in violation of the fairness policies central to net neutrality rules.

The initiative by AT&T comes as the company prepares to introduce DirecTV Now, a 100-channel-plus online alternative to cable or satellite service.

Subscribers of the paid service would be able to watch shows free of data charges. The benefits would not be available to non-AT&T customers. In a letter this week, The Federal Communications said it had ''serious concerns'' that the company's favouritism toward its own customers could harm competition.

Meanwhile, AT&T told Ars Technica, that customers could opt out of Stream Saver, but it would enabled by default-even for customers with unlimited data.

According to the announcement, AT&T would notify customers when Stream Saver had been activated and provide instructions for turning it off and back on.

"It's your choice. You can still stream video in higher resolution, when available, whenever you choose," AT&T said. "You control Stream Saver and can turn it off or back on for any qualified line at any time at my AT&T or Premier for business customers. There is no charge to disable or enable Stream Saver."