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Netflix Makes a Change to EU Streaming Amid Pandemic

It will reduce quality for 30 days to reduce traffic as EU is concerned about strain on internet
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 19, 2020 4:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – Will the coronavirus pandemic break the internet? The EU asked Netflix to stop high-definition streaming in an effort to reduce strain on the internet as widespread lockdowns are forcing adults to telecommute and children to stream a lot of videos. The company has complied, agreeing to reduce the bit rate of its video streams for at least 30 days, CNN reports. "We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," it says in a statement. What does that mean for users? A rep says some may notice "a reduction in perceptible video quality," but others won't see any difference. So far, no internet outages or problems have been reported in the EU.

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But the concerns are not unfounded: Experts have warned that the strain on infrastructure will only get worse as schools and universities move to online learning and as livestreaming of classes or business conferences starts to increase. The New York Times delved into the question of whether the internet can handle so many people cooped up at home, explaining that both home networks (what people set up in their own residences) and home internet services (the internet services from Comcast, Verizon, etc. that those home networks use) could be affected. It compares home internet services as a "garden hose" compared to the "big pipe" of enterprise-grade internet service used by schools and companies. While numerous companies have recently reassured customers they have the bandwidth to handle the increased traffic and have plans in place to handle the surge in use, the short answer to the question of how infrastructure will fare in the long term is "we don't know." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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