Netflix Cuts Back on Bandwidth in Europe to Handle Load

If you’ve been a good citizen of the EU and have been practicing “social distancing,” it’s clear you will have a lot of time on your hands. Most people are doing what most people do. No, not that (although look for another Baby Boom in December). I’m talking about binge watching on Netflix. And so many viewers in Europe are watching the streaming service right now, that the company is having to consider dialing back the bit rates in order to shoulder the load. Are you ready for a return to SD?

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made the announcement after advising EU Commissioner Theirry Breton that cutting back of bit-rates by as much as 25% for the next 30 days would be necessary, in order reduce the traffic to Netflix’ European networks in order to “maintain a good quality service” to customers. A report by Vodafone indicated that a 50% spike in streaming internet traffic was causing network overload, leading to congestion and buffering. Only by cutting bitrates in order to stream less data would ensure there would be enough bandwidth for subscribers to watch their streaming favorites.

Hastings also warned that the bitrate cutback could cause more pixelation, and resolution that would look more like standard definition video from ten years ago. The cutback is expected to last for the duration of the outbreak, or at least 30 days, whichever comes first.

So far, here in the US, there hasn’t been a call for similar measures, although the FCC has granted emergency access to more wireless spectrum for companies like T-Mobile and Verizon, in order to meet the increased demand of internet services.

However, if the outbreak lasts longer than 30 days, and some reports are indicating we could be looking at an 18 month ordeal before the pandemic has been eradicated, internet companies and ISPs may have to institute strict bit rate and bandwidth caps in order to make sure there is enough internet for those who wouldn’t normally be home from day to day.

But I’ll be honest. That’s a load of hokum. Internet Bandwidth isn’t like land. You can always make more. More servers equals more bandwidth, and many companies use a scalable bandwidth business model in order to cope with spikes in traffic. I would think that if you can handle a spike for any length of time, you can handle it ongoing for longer periods. The question is, would they?