Coronavirus: Facebook Joins Netflix, YouTube In Streaming Downgrade

Facebook has joined with its rivals when it said it will temporarily lower the video streaming quality in Europe to ease the strain on networks.

Last week Netflix, Amazon and YouTube confirmed they will lower the streaming quality of their video content for European users for thirty days.

It comes amid concern in some circles at network capacity. Vodafone for example admitted that there has been a surge in data traffic on its networks around the world, with some markets showing a 50 percent rise in traffic.

Bandwidth issue

That led to calls from European Commissioner Thierry Breton for example, for streaming platforms to consider lowering the quality of their online content.

The idea to halt streaming in high definition is to ease overloading online networks, as more and more people self-isolate during the Coronavirus pandemic.

And bandwidth is becoming a precious commodity as many countries are now enforcing nationwide lockdowns.

Facebook has now confirmed it will temporarily downgrade the quality of video streaming in Europe on its social platforms Facebook and Instagram, Techcrunch reported.

“To help alleviate any potential network congestion, we will temporarily reduce bit rates for videos on Facebook and Instagram in Europe,” a Facebook spokesman reportedly said in a statement.

The move will last as long as there are concerns about bandwidth strain, a person close to the company said.

Meanwhile it is also reported that Disney will lower its overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25 percent in all of the European countries launching Disney+ on Tuesday 24 March.

Coronavirus strain

Facebook last week acknowledged that the effects of the pandemic are also stretching it to the limit.

In a call with reporters, CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly said Facebook’s services are facing “big surges” in usage as the coronavirus forces millions around the world to stay home.

He described the increase in demand as “well beyond” the main annual spike usually seen on New Year’s Eve. Voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, in particular, are more than double usual levels.

However BT has insisted there is plenty of capacity in the UK’s online networks.

Howard Watson, chief technology and information officer for BT Group, has publicly stated that the carrier “has more than enough capacity” in its UK network.

“Even if the same heavy data traffic that we see each evening were to run throughout the daytime, there is still enough capacity for work applications to run simultaneously,” he reportedly said.

Death toll

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has so far killed 15,485 people around the world as of Monday 23 March 2020, the World Health Organisation has reported.

There are 360,096 cases of the virus worldwide –  a big jump from the 252,055 cases on Friday 20 March.

Read Silicon UK’s message to readers during the pandemic!

Last week Italy overtook China as reporting the most deaths from the pandemic.

Italy has now recorded 5,476 deaths due to Covid-19, compared to China’s 3,270 deaths.

And Spain is unfortunately catching up with 2,206 deaths, after a 434 deaths in just one day.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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