Netflix reduces streaming bit rates in Europe to fight internet congestion

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Netflix is making some big changes to help lessen the impact of COVID-19 on networks.
Photo: Brad Gibson / Cult of Mac

Quarantine and chill is about to get a noticeable quality drop for Netflix users in Europe.

Netflix announced Thursday it would begin to reduce bit rates on all streams in Europe starting today. The move came shortly Netflix CEO Reed Hastings called a European Union official to discuss how to stop the internet from getting congested as more people are being told to work from home.

“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,” according to a statement from Netflix provided to Cult of Mac. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

Details on how much of a reduction the various qualities of streams will see were not provided. High definition videos use about 3GB of data in an hour, while standard-definition programs only use about one gigabyte. The streaming giant hasn’t said yet whether the bit rate reduction moves will be mirrored in the U.S.

Keeping the internet functioning during the COVID-19 pandemic is critical, not only so everyone in self-quarantine can be entertained, but also to conduct business and earn a living as unemployment soars worldwide. Clogged internet lanes would also have a devastating impact on the ability of consumers to stay informed and fight the outbreak.

European Union Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, praised the move that should improve the internet’s capacity for teleworking.

“I welcome the very prompt action that Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the COVID19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users. [Netflix] has demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and solidarity.”