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Netflix to drop streaming quality amid coronavirus outbreak

The move follows calls from EU’s European Commissioner to ease the pressure on internet service providers.

  • Netflix to reduce stream quality in Europe for 30 days to ease internet pressure.
  • Although the streaming service has said the measures will apply to Europe, it has not confirmed whether they will apply to the UK.
  • UK internet service providers “ready” to handle extra broadband demand from people at home during the pandemic.
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Netflix has said it will temporarily reduce the quality of videos on its platform to ease pressure on internet service providers during the coronavirus outbreak.

The platform, which is home to shows including Stranger Things and The Crown, will drop the video bitrate for 30 days, following calls from the EU’s European Commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton.

It comes as people in the UK resort to working from home and self-isolation, while other parts of Europe are subject to lockdowns.

Although the streaming service has said the measures will apply to Europe, it has not confirmed whether they will apply to the UK.

Netflix expects the move to cut its European traffic by about 25 per cent but assured users they will still be able to deliver a “good quality service”.

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“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings – and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus – Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a spokeswoman said.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 per cent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

Mr Breton praised Netflix boss Reed Hastings for showing a “strong sense of responsibility and solidarity” on the issue.

“Social distancing measures to fight the Coronavirus lead to increased demand for internet capacity be it for teleworking, e-learning or entertainment purposes,” 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.

“Mr Hastings has demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and solidarity.

“We’ll keep closely in touch to follow the evolution of the situation together.”

Internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK have insisted they are “ready” to handle extra broadband demand from people at home during the pandemic.

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Last week, Andrew Glover, chair of the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA), which represents the industry, said: “ISPs are ready to handle any potential extra bandwidth and consistently assess the demands that are being put on their networks.”

Reader Q&A: Would it be possible to shut down the whole internet?

Asked by: Lucy Fraser, Kent

No. The internet is a network of networks, in which messages are routed as packets of data using the TCP/IP addressing protocol. It is like you and several friends setting off on a road trip, each taking separate routes to arrive at the same destination – but regardless of roadblocks and diversions on the way, you all arrive in exactly the same order that you left. Similarly, internet data splits and reassembles itself automatically, regardless of which networks you take down.

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