Netflix Reduces Streaming Video Quality in Europe to Lower Data Usage and Ease Strain on Broadband Networks

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Netflix has complied with a request from the European Union to lower its streaming video quality in Europe to ease network strain from the millions of people working from home.


According to the BBC, Netflix is reducing video quality in Europe for the next 30 days. Netflix says that the change will reduce data consumption by 25 percent, but that viewers will still be satisfied with picture quality.

To limit data use, Netflix is cutting streaming bitrates, which could cause videos to look a bit more pixelated.

“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and [Netflix chief executive] Reed Hastings, and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, Netflix has decided to begin reducing bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” the company said.

The European Union asked Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services to consider temporary reductions in streaming quality due to the abnormally large number of people working from home and taking advantage of streaming services.

The EU wants streaming platforms to limit content to standard definition instead of high-definition, and it also wants individual users to pay attention to their data consumption rates.

Having a large number of people at home has led to worries that broadband connections, which are designed to cope with evening surges in traffic, may not be able to handle long days of adults engaging in video conferencing and children taking online classes or playing games. Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, saw a 75 percent rise in home broadband and mobile network traffic over the weekend.

Netflix has not said whether the bitrate reduction will be implemented in other countries like the United States, but it does not appear that U.S. internet providers have called for such measures at this time. The United States Federal Communications Commission earlier this week permitted Verizon, T-Mobile, and US Cellular to temporarily use additional spectrum to meet increased demand for broadband access.

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