The coronavirus has yet another unforeseen impact. The European Union recently urged Netflix and other streaming platforms to only allow video streaming in standard definition — rather than high definition — to relieve some of the bandwidth strain during times of unprecedented usage as people are increasingly quarantined due to the spread of COVID-19.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton reportedly spoke to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings directly about the request and afterwards gave a public statement to CNN which said, given the unprecedented situation, "all [streaming platforms, telecom operators and users] have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation."
A Netflix spokesperson told CNN that the EU was right to be concerned about the continued smooth operation of the internet and would continue talks in order to do their part, but also noted that Netflix already adjusts streaming quality to available network capacity. The Commissioner then noted no outages or lack of internet access had yet been reported, despite an exponential increase in internet usage.
The question you're probably asking yourself, if you're in the U.S., is what does this all really mean for you, who's scrolling through this story on your phone with plans to get back to bingeing soon? Well, so far at least, absolutely nothing is happening to your high-definition Netflix options. The EU has raised a valid infrastructure concern that many governments are currently dealing with — though again, no outages or adverse affects have been reported just yet — and how that will be dealt with on a broader industry level is unclear. Eventually, there might be a blanket streaming speed slow-down in Europe, instead of simply a case-by-case downgrade based on personal bandwidth access.
While there is certainly a possibility that the American government could express similar concerns about keeping the internet afloat, for the time being, both internet access and streaming speed are par-for-course for the American Netflix binger. But if you want to do your part before we get into panic mode? Maybe flip the streaming options on your devices to standard definition just in case. Hey, you're already chipping into the common good by staying home anyway, right?
Important phone conversation with @ReedHastings, CEO of @Netflix— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 18, 2020
To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome
Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain.
To secure Internet access for all, let's #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.