Content platforms reduce European streaming quality to make way for remote working

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Content platforms Netflix and YouTube have agreed to reduce the quality of streaming across Europe as internet-use continues to rise amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

The companies have committed to the measure for the next 30 days to try and help reduce traffic on European networks, while also ensuring a good quality of service.

Announcements from the providers came following talks between European Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings, CEO at Netflix earlier this week about the strain video streaming has been placing on networks.

Breton stated, via his Twitter account, that ‘teleworking and streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure internet access for all, let’s switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary.’ He has since praised Hastings’ strong sense of responsibility, saying: ‘I welcome the very prompt action that #Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the Covid-19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users.’

YouTube parent company, Google followed suit, committing publicly to temporarily switching its traffic in Europe to standard definition by default. Breton responded: ‘I warmly welcome the initiative that Google takes to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the Covid-19 crisis by having YouTube switch all EU traffic to standard definition by default.’

Eric Broockman, CTO at networking company, Extreme Networks issued the following in response: ‘With an increasing number of people working and staying at home, the strain on European networks is currently enormous. But asking Netflix to reduce its streaming rates merely alleviates the symptoms of a more fundamental problem, instead of tackling its roots - especially as a lot of other streaming, video conferencing and cloud services will continue to put unusually high volumes of data across networks. In fact, we have noticed that some of the networks we help power have seen an increase of up to 25 per cent in traffic over the last few weeks. In some cases, that translates to an additional 1.5T of data that is being transmitted each second.

‘In an ideal world, network operators would obviously upgrade their infrastructure and invest in cloud-based solutions to make their networks as agile, resilient and flexible as possible. However, the reality is that this is a race against time for network operators that need to find a solution to this problem now, rather than in a few months or years down the line. So, in the short term, what network operators could do to reduce the pressure on their networks and ensure connectivity for all is to deprioritise non-essential traffic coming from applications such as online gaming. This would then free up bandwidth for essential services, including voice and video traffic, and ease the pressure on the network without impacting service levels too much.’

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