Netflix to Dial Back Video Quality in Europe to Ease Internet Congestion

Netflix N LogoThe ongoing coronavirus outbreak has forced many of us to work remotely and stay at home as much as possible. And with more people relying on video conferencing during the day and streaming entertainment to pass the time at night, some are concerned that the increased demand could cause congestion-related issues. Case in point: A member of the European Commission said he’s reached out to Netflix to lower overall video quality in a bid to reduce network demand and the company has responded to say it’s reducing streaming bit rates across Europe for the next 30 days.

In a tweet this week, Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, said he spoke with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about the possibility of lowering the streaming company’s quality settings to reduce strain on the internet. He also included the hashtag #SwitchToStandard, suggesting a move from high-definition video (like 720p and 1080p) down to what’s considered standard-definition (480p).

“Teleworking and streaming help a lot, but infrastructures might be in strain,” Breton mentioned in his tweet.

Indeed, companies have reported surges in internet traffic during the current pandemic. Earlier today, Microsoft noted an almost 40 percent jump in daily active users on its Teams chat app — going from 32 million users a week ago to 44 million users on March 18th.

Business Insider reports that Netflix has announced it will start reducing streaming bit rates across Europe for the next 30 days. The company estimates the move will reduce Netflix’s impact on European networks by around 25 percent while still offering good video quality.

In addition to actions on Netflix’s part, there are steps customers can take if they’re noticing issues with congestion now that more family members are home for longer periods of time. As Breton suggests, lowering video quality to standard definition or below can have a dramatic effect. By Netflix’s own estimates, using its Low quality setting requires about 0.3 GB per hour per device, or around 4 percent of what would be required for a 7 GB/hour 4K stream.

Have you noticed more demand on your home internet usage? If you have, and you’ve been trying to reduce the impact, feel free to comment and let us know how you’ve been adjusting.

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