YouTube to Follow Netflix’s Lead and Reduce Stream Quality in Europe to Ease Strain on Broadband Networks

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Following in the footsteps of Netflix, YouTube is reducing the quality of its videos in Europe to reduce the strain on broadband networks caused by an upsurge in home usage following the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reports.

“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” the company said in a statement.


Standard definition videos are more pixellated and not as sharp as high definition videos, but require less data transmission as a result.

The decision follows news on Thursday that Netflix will comply with a request from the European Union to lower its streaming video quality in Europe to ease network strain from the millions of people working from home. Netflix said it would reduce the bitrate of its streams for 30 days.

Internet traffic has increased with more adults switching to remote working to comply with social distancing measures. With schools closing in many countries, working adults also face the prospect of having to compete for bandwidth with children playing games and watching videos or logging in to e-learning sessions. The launch of Disney+ in Europe next Tuesday, which will offer 4K-resolution content, is unlikely to help matters.

U.K. internet service provider BT told BBC News that its broadband infrastructure has plenty of “headroom” to cope with increased demand as more people stay home due to coronavirus. The company said that since Tuesday, daytime traffic on its network had increased by between 35-60 percent, daytime and evening usage was still much lower than the highest levels it had ever recorded. “The additional load… is well within manageable limits and we have plenty of headroom for it to grow still further,” said a BT spokesperson.

Vodafone and TalkTalk, which also provide mobile and broadband services to UK households, gave similar assurances to the BBC despite also seeing increases in web traffic. However, on Tuesday, all U.K. mobile networks suffered severe outages after the number of voice calls rose by 30 per cent and overloaded the system, leaving hundreds of thousands of customers unable to connect calls to people on other mobile networks.

Like Netflix, YouTube has not said whether the bitrate reduction will be implemented in other countries like the United States, but it does not appear that U.S. internet providers have called for such measures at this time.

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