Netflix Limiting Streaming Quality

With so many people hunkering down due to the coronavirus, internet usage is up – and I mean wayyyy up. Across the pond, The European Union’s Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, has asked Netflix and YouTube to limit streaming quality in an attempt to avoid online gridlock. And Netflix is playing ball. The streaming service has agreed to limit its quality content from HD to SD for the next 30 days. And one can’t help wonder: is the U.S. next?

As the coronavirus shutdown continues across the world, there’s been a reported  50% increase in global traffic online. That’s not exactly good news for the digital infrastructure, with many users reporting speed decreases due to increased usage. In an attempt to limit the decreased speed, The European Union’s Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, urged Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to limit HD streaming and provide only SD to ensure “telecom operators weren’t overwhelmed.”

Per Deadline, Brenton said: “Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.” And Netflix has agreed. For the next 30 days, the streaming service will only offer SD in Europe. Netflix has yet to comment on whether or not this same move will happen anywhere else, like the United States.

“We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” a spokesperson for the streaming giant said. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a huge deal. Still, if you’re paying for HD content and only getting SD, you might be understandably frustrated. But these are not normal times, and we’re all going to have to deal with things like this in the foreseeable future.

Let me add one final point: decisions like this are practically advertisements for physical media. I know plenty of people have abandoned DVDs and Blu-rays for streaming or digital content, but no one is ever going to be able to limit the quality of your Blu-ray copy of a film. Unless power grids go out across the globe and we’re all plunged into darkness. At which point we’ll probably have bigger things to deal with than watching The Circle.

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