Yesterday, Netflix made the decision to reduce streaming quality in Europe given the spike in people self-isolating due to covid-19 and fears about internet bandwidth. Today, YouTube is following suit, according to a Reuters exclusive.
“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement.
The discussion follows a discussion between EU commissioner Thierry Breton, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. Reuters reports that YouTube had only noted a few peaks in usage, but decided to err on the side of caution. Breton took to Twitter to thank Pichai and Wojcicki for helping to “preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the covid-19 crisis.”
I warmly ???????? the initiative that #Google takes to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the #COVID19 crisis by having #YouTube switch all ???????? traffic to SD by default. @sundarpichai and @SusanWojcicki demonstrate strong responsibility.https://t.co/jMNhFFpsxa
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 20, 2020
Breton’s pleas are centered around the fear that as more people stay home to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, bandwidth-intensive activities like video streaming may overload networks. There is some truth to that. Gamers have noticed wonky connectivity for Nintendo Switch, Xbox Live, Playstation, Twitch, and Discord. That’s not limited to leisure activities either. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and other teleworking tools have also experienced outages as more people work from home. Twitter feed shows an increased amount of disruptions to all types of major online services, including things like Facebook, Spectrum, Amazon Prime Music, LinkedIn, and Pandora.
European internet service providers, however, say that fears of an overloaded internet are a bit premature at the moment. Vodafone told the BBC that while it is experiencing a 30 per cent spike in UK traffic, data uploads and downloads are “largely the same” as before social distancing took hold. BT, another British telecom provider, also released a statement emphasising its networks could handle the increased load. In it, BT noted that while weekday daytime traffic had risen 35-60 per cent, it was still only half the average evening peak and well within capacity. The resilience of internet service at a time when it’s being hit from every direction is just another indication that data caps are a scam.