Netflix, YouTube temporarily reduce streaming bitrate in Europe to lessen Internet burden

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The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing people worldwide to stay home and practice social distancing. A side effect of that trend is that the Internet is being bombarded with more traffic than ever as countless users log on to stay entertained and work from home.

Now, major streaming sites are making unprecedented moves to help ease the burden on the information superhighway. Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon have all committed to decreasing the bitrate of their video streams in Europe for the next 30 days. It’s unclear if a similar move in the U.S. market will occur. Regardless, it is a wise precaution to ensure that the Internet is unaffected by this pandemic.

Looks Like Days Past

Netflix led the charge to reduce its impact on the Internet on Thursday. The streaming giant confirmed that it will temporarily reduce the bitrate of its video content in Europe. Earlier reports suggested that the company could make such a move, but that it was reluctant to do so.

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It said in a statement, “Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings—and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus—Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days.”

The move came in response to pressure from European governments who asked streaming companies, telecom providers, and individual consumers to reduce their bandwidth footprint. Netflix says that reducing its bitrate in Europe will lessen its impact on the continent’s networks by about 25 percent.

Previous estimates suggest that, in normal times, Netflix consumes up to 15 percent of the world’s Internet bandwidth. As more people stay home and binge their favorite content, that number will only increase.

Following the Leader

Since its meteoric rise to the top of the streaming industry, Netflix has been viewed as a leader. Unsurprisingly, other streaming platforms have announced that they will be following suit in the wake of Netflix’s bitrate reduction measures.

On Friday, YouTube said that its video quality will be reduced from high definition to standard definition across the European Union (EU). Amazon’s Prime Video made a similar announcement to Netflix’s. The emerging platform will also reduce its bitrate for European viewers.

Despite a spike in network traffic in the EU, no Internet service providers (ISPs) have reported excessive loads on their networks. That’s good news as people are increasingly turning to digital methods of communicating, working, and staying entertained.

Meanwhile, in the United States, many ISPs have actually suspended data caps on their networks. This will help Americans communicate during the COVID-19 outbreak without running out of data or bandwidth.

However, as the outbreak continues to worsen in the States, similar measures could be seen. Streaming platforms may expand their bitrate reduction efforts to the U.S. to ensure that America’s Internet infrastructure remains intact.

Despite the fact that no issues are yet present, taking precautionary measures now is the best way to ensure that Internet connectivity isn’t affected. Continuing to ensure that outcome will be met is crucial in the days, weeks, and months to come.


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