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Netflix Viewing During Coronavirus Lockdowns Strains EU Internet

By Danny Vena - Mar 19, 2020 at 10:58AM

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With millions more consumers at home, streaming becomes a lifeline.

The European Union (EU) has reached out to Netflix (NFLX 3.29%), asking the company to help ease the strain on internet usage by limiting streaming to standard definition. The EU's Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, spoke to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, urging the company to reducing streaming speeds from high definition (HD) in times of peak use. 

The two discussed ways to prevent internet congestion and ease the crushing demand, including automatically reducing image quality during periods of high demand. Breton and Hastings are scheduled to talk again in the coming days.

Loading icon spinning on video in an online movie streaming service.

Image source: Getty Images.

What to do while stuck at home?

Vast swaths of the European population are on lockdown in the face of the of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, shuttering schools and forcing millions of employees to work from home. This has resulted in people using videoconferencing to stay connected with jobs and school, will millions more view streaming video to pass the time as quarantines become a fact of life. While the infrastructure will likely hold up under the strain, the potential for reduced speeds and service drops is climbing. 

Netflix has long focused on using the minimum amount of bandwidth necessary while maintaining the quality of its service, which has resulted a number of cutting edge innovations. To deal with slower internet speeds in developing nations, it created the Dynamic Optimizer, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to review programs frame by frame and compresses scenes only to the degree necessary to deliver them efficiently without degrading the image. This helps improve streaming quality at slower speeds.

The company also partners with local internet service providers (ISPs) to use Netflix's own content delivery network, a series of specialized servers specially designed to deliver content to users.

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