Netflix to cut stream quality in European Union amid coronavirus bandwidth fears

The You Tube app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

To help counter this, both Netflix and YouTube have said they will reduce streaming bit rates to help cut down on traffic.

It's unclear if Netflix plans to follow Breton's urging to avoid HD streaming. But this is adding to the strain, and HD video is exasperating the situation.

Europe's telecoms providers, from Vodafone to Deutsche Telekom, have reported a spike in data traffic in recent days, forcing Mr Breton to issue his pre-emptive call before the Internet breaks down.

So EU officials reached out to Netflix, and asked the company to do its part to reduce network congestion in order to ensure that nobody finds their internet service disrupted because too many people were trying to stream Stranger Things in 4K.

The BBC is said to be considering similar action for its iPlayer catch-up service.

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It's not just extra video streaming that is straining internet infrastructure, said Kin K. Leung, professor of internet technology at Imperial College London. "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". "As measures to limit physical interactions imply increased volumes of online teaching and teleworking arrangements, the demand for Internet capacity has increased", they noted.

Experts warn that reducing streaming rates may only give temporary relief and the dilemma of whether to discriminate between essential and non-essential traffic will resurface.

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted the daily lives of pretty much everyone, with a lot of people now self-isolating and spending more time inside at home. Such measures can not monitor specific content and can not be maintained longer than necessary.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton on Wednesday tweeted that he had talked to Netflix chief Reed Hastings about the matter, saying it would help "secure internet access for all". While traffic has increased, European Union telecom regulators say there haven't been any signs of congestion in Europe and operators appear able to cope with the situation. "It is not dimensioned to carry this traffic on suburban broadband - especially when this is combined with domestic usage", she explains.

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