June 23, 2024


Sapiens Digital

EU Asks Netflix to Lower Video Quality to Prevent Internet Disruptions Amid Coronavirus

3 min read

The European Union is asking Netflix to lower the quality of its videos streams to help reduce the strain on internet networks amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

On Wednesday, European Commissioner Thierry Breton said he discussed the matter with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings during a phone call. “Teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain,” Breton said in a tweet. “To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.”

HD will usually stream a video at a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution. Standard definition, on the other hand, will stream at a 720-by-480 resolution. So it’s a significant downgrade on your TV and movie watching. But Breton wants to ensure no one loses internet access when millions of Europeans have been forced to stay home due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has been spreading across the continent. 

In a statement to CNN, Breton said streaming platforms and telecom operators “all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.”

In response, Netflix told CNN it already adjusts a video’s streaming quality to the available network capacity. The company is also able to reduce the bandwidth strain by partnering with local internet service providers to store the Netflix content library closer to customers’ homes. 

“Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time,” the Netflix spokesperson said. “We’ve been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies.”

The EU isn’t alone in worrying about outages from so many people working at home. On Wednesday, the European mobile carrier Vodafone said internet traffic on the company’s network has been surging amid the coronavirus outbreak. “We should expect this trend of data growth to continue and we have already seen data traffic increase by 50 percent in some markets,” the company said. In response, Vodafone has been working to expand the network capacity and trying to ensure healthcare providers experience no disruption in internet access. 

On the same day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said his company has been noticing rising traffic over its messaging services. “In terms of stats, we’re seeing very elevated levels of use in Italy and in all countries that have been affected,” he told journalists in a briefing. “So in terms of WhatsApp or Messenger for calling is more than double overall what it normally is.”

The good news is that the world’s internet networks appear to be handling the growing traffic with minimal disruptions. Ookla Speedtest has been monitoring the networks in China, Europe and the US, and has only detected slight, occasional dips in internet speeds in recent weeks. 

“Even though from time to time individual services, such as a website or an app, have outages, the core of the internet is robust,” added Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure company. “Traffic is shifting from corporate and university networks to residential broadband, but the Internet was designed for change.”

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