The spread of coronavirus has impacted people’s lives all over the world, with many working from home and practicing social distancing. However, there is an unexpected consequence to COVID-19 – streaming services are reducing download speeds and default resolutions in Europe.

Many European leaders are concerned that because such a large number of people are working from home and practicing social distancing, millions are using streaming services at an unprecedented rate. There are worries that if too many people stream video with a lot of data, the Internet as a whole could experience slow-downs. If that were to happen, many would be unable to access their job from home or to find out important health information, causing both health and financial woes. However, some politicians are taking preemptive measures to reduce the chances of an Internet brownout from happening.


Thierry Breton, the Internal Market and Services Commissioner for the European Union, spoke to those in the streaming industry about limiting speeds to ensure the Internet’s continued operation. “Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation,” warned Breton. Breton also spoke directly to the CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, about using standard definition streams instead of high definition. Breton even took to Twitter to convince people to use lower resolutions when watching videos online.

“To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary,
wrote Breton.

Many in the streaming industry have already made the “#Switch.” Google, which operates YouTube, will show videos in standard definition by default, while Netflix will stream at a lower bit-rate for 30 days. As of this writing, these changes only apply to those living in Europe.

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