Many people are stuck at home right now practicing social distancing and self-isolation as a means to fight the coronavirus pandemic. This has led to increased internet usage worldwide. Specifically, quite a few people are streaming Netflix at higher rates than usual, which is, in part, putting a big strain on the internet as a whole. Now, European officials have called on the streaming service to limit streaming in HD so that the internet doesn't break.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton took to Twitter recently to reveal that he has had conversations with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about this very issue. Currently, people all across Europe and the U.S. are working from home, as businesses have been shut down temporarily due to the outbreak. But this is adding to the strain, and HD video is exasperating the situation. Breton said the following in a tweet.

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"Important phone conversation with Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix. To beat #COVID19, we #StayAtHome. Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure Internet access for all, let's #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary."

HD video ultimately takes up a lot more resources. While the picture quality is undoubtedly better, the strain can potentially be problematic right now. Netflix makes up, typically speaking, about 12 percent of all internet traffic, with Google, largely thanks to YouTube, making up another 12 percent. Reducing to SD video could help reduce the risk of internet failure at this crucial time. A Netflix spokesperson had this to say in a statement.

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

HD video has become an increasingly popular option for streamers in recent years. In part, because TV technology has gotten much better, with 4K TVs becoming much more affordable for the average viewer. While the 4K Blu-ray market is relatively niche, streaming 4K video is something anyone with a reliable internet connection can take advantage of. But, in these crazy times, now might be the right time to switch back to SD, at least for the time being.

Netflix is also just one of a growing number of streaming services to consider here. Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, CBS All Access and others are capable of streaming in HD. Anyone who uses these services might want to consider adjusting settings, where possible, to limit streams to SD, or even making use of physical media, for those who have access to it. Things are certainly rough right now, but if the internet collapses entirely? I doubt any of us wants to see what that world looks like. This news comes to us via CNN.

Ryan Scott at Movieweb
Ryan Scott