a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Nov, 2014

Putting a cap on the family bandwidth a.k.a. finding surprises in your Netflix settings

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|parenting

We have a lot of devices on the go here at Casa Fishbowl, and they all come together very nicely to drain our monthly bandwidth allowance.** Endless YouTube videos, transfer of large files to and from work (for me, mostly), and Apple TV and Netflix have a lot to do with the fact that we have been coming very close to going over our max every month.

Awhile back we declared that Tuesdays were NO NETFLIX TUESDAYS from now on. No watching after school or at night with the family. No shows, no movies. As it turns out, turning off the bandwidth hogs one day a week does makes a difference to the overall amount we use and keeps us from going over. And happily, as a result, we find ourselves reading more, going out more, and playing board games. This can only be a good thing.

Mark knew something about Netflix that I didn’t know about. You can change your settings so you’re not using as much data. (Did you know this??) Depending on the setting you choose it does affect picture quality, but honestly, sometimes it really doesn’t matter. (Especially when the kids are watching Buffy reruns.) It’s easy to do:

1) Log in to Netflix.
2) Find your account, and select “playback settings.”

I recommend experimenting to see what kind of difference it makes. Most of the shows we watch are on the “medium” setting but we’ll switch to “high” if we’re gearing up to watch a good film. (Also, Mark is a total TV snob and has very high standards as it pertains to his Overall Viewing Experience.)

We were talking about this to someone the other day and the guy realized his default setting had been on “high” forever, which is the best video quality and equates to up to 3GB per hour of HD and 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD. And if your kid is watches How to Train Your Dragon on Netflix ten times in a row, well, that is going to add up.

Here’s the thing, at this point you can only change your settings from your computer, not from your mobile device. So you’ll have to put down your bowl of popcorn and saunter over to your desktop to change it before the movie starts.

** I hear some of you asking, why not just opt for an unlimited bandwidth package? The way I see it, that is akin to bringing the kids to an all-you-can-eat buffet for dinner every night. Just because we CAN have unlimited bandwidth, doesn’t mean we should. Also, I don’t want to be the mother of two child zombies.

Agree? Disagree? How do you control bandwidth in your house? Or maybe this isn’t an issue?

6 Responses to "Putting a cap on the family bandwidth a.k.a. finding surprises in your Netflix settings"

1 | Arlene Somerton Smith

November 12th, 2014 at 11:57 am


Whoa! Thanks for this. It’s not a problem for most of the year, but in the summer when we are all at home we go past our limit every month. This will help for sure.

2 | Molly

November 12th, 2014 at 12:08 pm


I know zippo about bandwidths and the such but am sending this article to my husband!

3 | Sarah (@sarahjanesroom)

November 12th, 2014 at 2:41 pm


Well, that’s interesting!

One thing I noted, though… the Netflix account is in my name, but we have profiles set up for myself, my husband and the kids. For my husband and I, I can check our playback settings (they were on Auto – not sure what that means!). The kids, however, have the “kid” categories etc. activated so that they can’t see anything other than the children’s genre. The “manage account” option isn’t available for them… unless it’s hiding somewhere and I can’t find it. I’m going to have to investigate further.

4 | Melissa

November 12th, 2014 at 7:08 pm


…I bet if you had American Netflix you’d never be able to turn it off.

5 | Laurel

November 21st, 2014 at 3:28 pm


I love this post even though I don’t agree that having unlimited bandwidth turns children into zombies although some days I wish it would-giggle:) We have unlimited because we are tired of worrying about going over and being nickel an dimed by providers. I also worked out a sweet deal so the price is right. Additionally I work almost exclusively from home and John also works from home a lot—:) We are running a small empire over hear-insert second giggle here:)

6 | andrea tomkins

November 21st, 2014 at 3:34 pm


Laurel: We are too! So much of what I do is bandwidth heavy too.

I guess what I neglected to say is that from a parenting perspective, it’s easier for me to say: “turn off the [insert bandwidth hog here] because we’re going to go over” than just nag them to shut ‘er off already! :)

I truly believe they watch fewer programs because of it.

comment form:


Stay in touch

Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

On the nightstand

All hail the mighty Twitter