As people worldwide practice social distancing, they are turning to their computers for entertainment — and Netflix is feeling the hit. People are working from home, trying to keep themselves entertained, or staying up to date with the pandemic, and internet usage has surged across the world. Video content already makes up around 70% of network traffic, according to analysts, so the question is: will streaming services like Netflix be able to keep up?
“Last week, the European Union asked companies like Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube to ensure that we are using telecommunications networks as efficiently as possible given the unprecedented demand they are facing,” wrote Ken Florance, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery, on Saturday.
Netflix has found a way to reduce its traffic by 25% in Italy and Spain, Europe’s first two countries to enforce major shutdowns, the company confirmed in that same statement. Now, the company will begin utilizing this strategy to reduce bandwidth across the rest of Europe and the U.K.
Here’s how it works: Netflix is removing the highest bandwidth streams for each level of resolution. Users may notice a slight decrease in quality, but should still be able to comfortably watch their programs. The new reduction will be in place for the next 30 days. The move will primarily help internet service providers, which are experiencing unprecedented surges.
According to Netflix, providers in Latin America are pushing for similar reductions, but the company is prioritizing countries with government-mandated lockdowns. That means that, should the U.S. enforce a nationwide shutdown, Netflix might impose a similar reduction — but as of now, Netflix is carrying on as usual in America.
Though the streaming service has seen traffic increases from 54% to 75% in some parts of the country, Wired reported that most broadband providers are rising up to the surge. The internet has slowed down in places including San Francisco, CA and Westchester County, NY, said analysts. But according to Luke Deryckx, the CTO of broadband insight company Ookla, there’s another reason your home internet might be slower: your WiFirouter is bogged down.
Netflix isn’t the only streaming site making changes to accommodate the high demand. On Friday, both Amazon Prime and YouTube announced that they would be changing their default definition quality in Europe. Disney+, which will launch in the U.K and six European countries on Tuesday, also announced that it will lower bandwidth use. The streamer’s launch in France was also moved to April 7.
“Our goal is simple,” said Netflix’s rep. “To maintain the quality of service for our members, while supporting ISPs who are facing unprecedented strain on their networks.”