UPDATED with Netflix news: Netflix will limit the streaming quality of its content for the next 30 days for users in Europe to relax the strain on communications networks as increasing numbers rely on internet connections in coronavirus lockdown.
“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement. The announcement follows calls earlier today from the European Union for streaming providers to be mindful of clogging networks and affecting the reliability of internet services.
At present the restrictions on quality apply only to European users; Netflix did not comment on this change applying to users in other territories, including the U.S.
PREVIOUSLY: The European Union’s Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, has called on streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube to take measures to prevent internet gridlock as the response to the Coronavirus places additional strain on communications networks.
In a call placed Wednesday, he urged Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to serve only standard definition content to users in times of peak demand. With vast numbers of people now working from home, and using video chat and digital messages to stay in touch with friends and family, and as users increase their time spent on streaming platforms, Breton said streamers’ had a role to play in ensuring telecom operators weren’t overwhelmed.
“Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation,” Breton said, in a statement released after his call.
Digital infrastructure is holding up, despite spikes in usage as Europe’s lockdowns continue to multiply. Analysts say that existing infrastructure should support the increased demand, but as operators adjust, users have reported speed and service drops. Figures from Akamai, which tracks web usage, point to a 50% increase in global traffic.
The commissioner is a former telecom CEO, heading up France Télécom between 2002 and 2005. The options he discussed with Hastings included a temporary automatic switch to standard definition during peak hours. Netflix already utilizes traffic management systems to limit quality based on available bandwidth. He said he would speak with Hastings again, but in a tweet urged users to proactively make the switch themselves. “To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary,” Breton tweeted.
The EU, alongside BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) will set up a reporting mechanism to monitor traffic surges in each EU country. Breton’s statement follows the FCC’s pledge for telecoms operators in the United States to “Keep Americans Connected” during the Coronavirus crisis. Major operators like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have signed the pledge.
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