The European Union has asked Netflix and other OTT companies to stream shows and movies in standard definition format so that internet traffic can be kept at a manageable level amid ongoing social distancing.
In a tweet posted Wednesday, EU commissioner Thierry Breton said he had a phone conversation with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. “Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain,” Breton posted, hash-tagging his tweet with, “To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome."
"Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time," the Netflix spokesperson told CNN "We've been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies."
UPDATE: Netflix later announced that it would adjust its bitrate in Europe for the next 30 days. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” Netflix said in a statement.
Monday’s average downstream internet usage was 98% higher than the most recent baseline Monday, March 9, a day when the stock market endured a record plunge and seemed to accelerate concern about the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. This is according to OpenVault, which offers data, insights and consulting to broadband service providers.
Nielsen, meanwhile, has predicted a 61% spike in streaming video usage in the U.S. amid coronavirus social distancing.
But just as in the U.S., the lobbying component of the Euro telecom sector said the increased traffic shouldn’t be a problem.
”At this stage, new traffic patterns are being effectively handled by engineers as per standard network operations," Lise Fuhr, director general of the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association, said in a statement. "We support the European Commission's effort to ensure that national governments and national regulators have all the tools they need to keep networks strong across the continent."