EU Asks Streaming Services to Lower Quality and Save Bandwidth for Home Workers

By Tom Pritchard on at

Lots of people are working from home now, and that means there's more pressure on the broadband infrastructure to keep everyone connected. Especially since none of the meetings are cancelled and are taking place in video conferencing apps instead. Now the EU has asked streaming services if they'd consider lowering the quality of their streams, and ease the strain everyone is causing by watching Altered Carbon while they work.

Specifically the EU is urging platforms to stick to SD content for the time being, rather than letting everyone and their dog watch everything in Full HD or 4K – which is bound to please all the people who pay extra for the privilege of higher resolution content. Thierry Breton, a European commissioner in charge of digital policy, said streaming services and telecoms providers had a “joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet"

Individuals aren't free either, since they're being asked to pay attention to their data usage and not hog bandwidth like it's toilet paper.

There has been a bit of worry that the increase in broadband traffic throughout the day wouldn't be very good for internet infrastructure - because they're only designed to handle traffic surges in the evening. People in Spain have already been asked to ration their usage and keep streaming and hand bandwidth activities restricted to off-peak hours, while our own networks (except Three, weirdly) all had outages earlier this week.

Can you imagine if the internet dies as a result of too much demand, especially with kids home from school next week? People might have to watch live daytime TV, and society would collapse within hours.

Naturally net neutrality specifically forbids throttling, but telecoms executives across the continent think that there is room for some co-operation. I suppose so long as everyone is being throttled equally it should be okay. Also this is a crisis, especially if you live in Italy or another country hard hit by coronavirus, and as our own government has been trying to tell us crises come with their own rules. We just need to make sure we go back to the old rules once this shitfest is over and done with.

Despite all that, BT has already said that its own infrastructure, which powers most of the UK's wired broadband, should be just fine. Because it's been built to handle higher demand than we generally use. Whether that holds up next week isn't clear, but until they tell us otherwise I guess we can all carry on as normal. [FT via MacRumours]