EU urges Netflix and other platforms to slow down streaming to prevent internet breaking

Binge-watching might have to be in SD

The EU has asked Netflix and other streaming platforms to stop showing video in high definition in a bid to minimise the strain on internet bandwidth as the world hunkers down during the coronavirus pandemic.

More and more people are having to stay at home to help slow the spread of the disease, meaning that demand for access to streaming platforms is on the up. Social media websites are also experiencing “big surges,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a call with reporters.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who is responsible for the EU internal market covering more than 450 million people, announced on Wednesday via Twitter that he had spoken to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. He called on people and companies to “#SwitchtoStandard definition when HD is not necessary” in order to secure internet access for all.


Breton said in a statement that all streaming platforms, telecom operators and users have “joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.”

CNN Business reports further that Hastings and Breton will talk again today (March 19).

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

Netflix added that it already adjusts the quality of streams to available network capacity and uses a special delivery network that keeps its library closer to users as a way of consuming less bandwidth.

Netflix's 'The Witcher'
Netflix’s ‘The Witcher’

Additionally, telecom operators in the EU said they support calls for customers to switch to standard definition streaming. “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.”

Zuckerberg said in his call with members of the media that the increase in demand for Facebook has gone “well beyond” the main annual spike usually seen on New Year’s Eve. He added that voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are double their usual levels.

Many people in the entertainment industry who are working from home are using the opportunity to stream live concerts, chats and DIY home-style TV shows, including Christine And The Queens, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, U2’s Bono and Queer Eye‘s Antoni Antoni Porowski.

See NME’s guide to the rise of virtual gigs during the coronavirus crisis here.