Netflix and YouTube may reduce stream quality due to coronavirus-related demand

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Streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and others may be ordered to reduce maximum streaming quality in order to keep up with increased demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This is due to a request by the European Union, reported in the Financial Times (via MacRumors), in light of the huge demand on the continent's broadband networks caused by people staying home in order to avoid spreading or catching the disease.

The statement comes from Thierry Breton, a European commissioner for digital policy. He is quoted by the FT as saying that streaming services and ISPs have "joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet." The EU suggests that quality be limited to standard definition only, and users be mindful of how much data they're using.

Netflix commented on this story, saying that it already has measures in place to ease internet traffic, such as local server storage and an "adaptive streaming" system that allows the service to match quality to available bandwidth.

In its statement to the FT, Netflix said “Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time. 

"We’ve been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies.”

YouTube did not respond to the Financial Times' request for comment.

The FT reports increased demand for other services too, including calls through messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which have apparently doubled in usage according to FB.

This is the opposite reaction to what US broadband providers have done, with companies removing data caps in order to deal with users needing far more internet access than they had done previously. The US government has also allowed Verizon, AT&T and US Cellular to use additional bandwidth for their mobile networks to keep up with demand.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.