Since countries heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic have implemented systems of social distancing (like closing bars, restaurants, or other forms of mass gatherings), Netflix and other video streaming services have experienced a boom in viewership since people are home more frequently. In Europe, Theirry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, recommended to Netflix to reduce its download speeds to standard definition instead of the high-def quality to free up bandwidth as messages are being transmitted about the coronavirus and so that the Internet doesn’t caput.
In a statement published by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix will comply with the European Commissioner’s request and reduce bit rates for the next 30 days.
“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings—and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus—Netflix has decided to being reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”
Netflix isn’t the only company to make this temporary change. According to Deadline, YouTube will reduce its bandwidth in Europe, but for an unspecified amount of time. Amazon will also follow suit. A spokesperson for YouTube said there’s been a notice of increased usage, however, they’re prepared for curveballs. “We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators (including Ofcom), governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to Standard Definition.”
Former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler said an increase in demand of services like Amazon or Google will continue to intensify as more and more people remain home in the face of COVID-19. “When you’ve got a couple of parents at home working remotely, you’ve got a handful of kids home going to school remotely, the demands on the bandwidth become challenged,” Wheeler explained to CNN.