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Netflix opens the gates to 'Super HD' video for all

The streaming service's highest-quality picture was previously available only to customers with an Internet service provider that was part of Netflix's Open Connect network.

Months after introducing its "Super HD" streaming option, Netflix's highest-definition picture format is available to all subscribers.

Super HD, Netflix's higher-quality version of the 1080p HD format, was rolled out earlier this year to customers whose Internet service provider was part of Netflix's Open Connect content delivery network, which lets ISPs peer directly with Netflix or cache content locally so it has less distance to travel to reach your home.

The system, Netflix said, would save it money rather than having to rely on third-party content distribution networks (CDNs) like Akamai, Limelight, and Level 3 and keep consumer prices low. It also would help reduce the strain on Netflix traffic, which has been estimated to take up nearly one-third of downstream North American Internet usage during peak hours.

But one broadband provider cried foul at "Super HD" being limited to some ISPs. Time Warner Cable said Netflix closed off access to some content formats while seeking preferential treatment from ISPs, even though TWC's network was capable of delivering the higher-quality format without being part of the network.

Thursday, Netflix said performance data and member requests prompted it to expand the higher bit-rate picture quality to all members.

But it added that "members who subscribe to an ISP with a direct Netflix connection will get the best experience." The site uses adaptive streaming to adjust video quality based on available bandwidth, so users will receive "Super HD" picture quality if their service can handle it.