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Facebook Is the Latest Company to Reduce Streaming Quality Amid European Efforts to Preserve Bandwidth

Stephanie Sengwe

Facebook is the latest tech giant to reduce streaming quality in Europe in order to preserve internet bandwidth amid high demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Reuters, Facebook will “downgrade video streaming quality on its platform and on Instagram.” The changes will last until there are no longer concerns about outages.

Facebook joins the likes of Netflix, YouTube and Disney, who have all made the adjustments in Europe. Last week, reports came out stating the European Union was urging streaming services such as Netflix to stop showing videos in high definition in order to prevent internet bandwidth from slowing down.

EU internal market and services commissioner Thierry Breton revealed he had spoken to Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings regarding the concerns and urged users, as well as companies, to use standard definition whenever possible in order to secure internet access for all.

“Commissioner Breton is right to highlight the importance of ensuring that the internet continues to run smoothly during this critical time,” a Netflix spokesperson stated at the time. “We’ve been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies.”

YouTube immediately followed suit and limited streaming in European countries to standard-definition video by default, according to Variety.

“[W]e are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” YouTube said in a statement. “While we have seen only a few usage peaks, we have measures in place to automatically adjust our system to use less network capacity.”

Amazon also made the changes, according to TechCrunch, and will be reducing streaming bitrates in Europe as well. “We support the need for careful management of telecom services to ensure they can handle the increased internet demand with so many people now at home full-time due to COVID-19,” the company said in a statement to TechCrunch.

“Prime Video is working with local authorities and Internet Service Providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe where we’ve already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers.”

So far, the Commission noted that although there has been a spike in internet usage, no outages have been reported.

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