KEY POINTS

  • European Commissioner Thierry Breton reportedly called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to ask about reducing the video quality during coronavirus pandemic
  • Breton said he made the request to lighten the strain on Europe's internet resulting from the coronavirus pandemic
  • Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook has experienced spikes in the site's services that surpassed annual New Year's Eve spikes

The European Union asked Netflix and other streaming services Thursday to consider reducing video quality to ensure the internet doesn’t crash under the strain of usage during the coronavirus pandemic.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted Wednesday that he had called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to ask about switching to standard definition. Doing so would ease the strain on Europe's internet, which has seen high traffic on streaming sites with people quarantined because of COVID-19’s spread.

Breton followed up with an official statement, saying streaming services and internet providers “have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation.”

A Netflix spokesperson echoed Breton’s statement and said he would speak again with Hastings.

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

The European Commission said there has already been a sharp increase in internet usage over the past month, but no outages have been reported.

“At this stage, new traffic patterns are being effectively handled by engineers as per standard network operations,” European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association Director General Lisa Fuhr said. “We support the European Commission's effort to ensure that national governments and national regulators have all the tools they need to keep networks strong across the continent.”

While the internet is holding, some companies reportedly are feeling the strain of heavier internet traffic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said demand on the website’s services, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, is “well beyond” the annual usage spikes on New Year’s Eve.

The major US internet services are working jointly to stem misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic The major US internet services are working jointly to stem misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic Photo: AFP / DENIS CHARLET