As part of the fallout from the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), tech giants are saying their facilities are now being stretched thin. Netflix being at the forefront is the latest to announce that it will begin reducing streaming quality across Europe for at least the next 30 days due what it seen as unprecedented usage. European citizens and residents have been asked to stay or work from home and as you might expect, its only normal for services like Netflix (streaming services) to feel a little bit more pinch.
In a statement, a Netflix spokesperson said “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members”.
Netflix may have been acting on an appeal by the European government asking its people to consider dropping high definition content in order to reserve some capacity for essential services during the ongoing pandemic. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be on the receiving end and as such could run out of capacity (breaking the internet) when everyone has to stream HD content at the same time. Europe is currently in a lockdown as a result of the virus and you can imagine hundreds of millions of people working from home, children and teenagers at home. The effect of this can be unprecedented. European Commissioner Thierry Breton in charge of Internal Markets and Services personally appealed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on Wednesday telling him that Netflix was having a big strain on European networks and could affect its 450 million residents in times like these.
The Commissioner said in a statement that “all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.” But on the action taken by Netflix, he said “I welcome the very prompt action that Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the Covid-19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users.”
Video has become a big part of our lives accounting for nearly 60 percent of delivered data from ISPs to end user devices. In the United States fro example, it is said that Netlfix accounts for about 12 percent of that traffic, Google’s YouTube alos accounts for about 12 percent of the entire video traffic in the Unites States. Facebook Watch will not be far behind as top streaming service.
It’s important to add at this time that no other regions outside Europe has made such demands of the streaming giant. This may change in the coming days as more people have now come to terms to self-isolation.
That said the EU Commissioner’s office is reporting that there have been no internet outages reported in any of its member nations so far in spite of the sharp increase in usage. They however added that they will be working with the department responsible for checking outages to come up with a reporting mechanism. Lise Fuhr, director general of the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association in a statement said “At this stage, new traffic patterns are being effectively handled by engineers as per standard network operations, 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.”
In the United States though, operators say they are prepared to handle the traffic surge. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg told CNN “So far (we’re seeing) no congestion in the network, we can handle that, we have built a very robust network”. That said, he says demands on his network overall has jumped including a 75 percent jump in gaming traffic and another 30 percent for VPN. This is projected to keep increasing as more people stay at home during the Coronavirus global pandemic.
Lastly, please remember to observe social distancing and personal hygiene. Moreover, let’s heed the advise of health professionals which is the only way we can slow down the spread of this disease.