I still don't buy your analysis. As I said, it would be a senseless waste of programming effort, unlikely to benefit anyone, ever. I would be shocked if Netflix's per-user streaming database even has a field for saving that information.
How is it that you know that the films that you watched in 480p even have higher bit rate encodings? Only about 5% of all Netflix streams have high-def encodings (it varies, so it's often a smaller percentage than that, sometimes a little larger). You can see the list of available HD streams here
, 703 titles as I write this, out of supposedly 12,000+ total.
EDIT: I just noticed that your post said, "...if you 'start from beginning' then it does recheck"; I assume that this means that you repeatedly tried resuming playback and always got the lower resolution stream, then tried "start from beginning" and got a higher one. I suppose it could be a quirk of the PS3 implementation that it always resumes exactly the same encoding that it stopped. It's certainly not true of all other implementations, since if I start or resume a stream and get a low bit rate, I'll immediately stop it and start-or-resume it again to get a new connection speed check and have been doing that for a long time on TiVo and Xbox.
The problem is that you can't be sure whether the PS3 checked or not since it's the only implementation that doesn't report an indication of connection speed check, nor whether or not the stream it chose was the HD one. AFAIK
, every other device does this.