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Netflix will reduce streaming bitrates in Europe to ease congestion

The company is trying to lessen its impact on networks during the coronavirus pandemic.
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Following reports this morning, Netflix confirmed it will reduce the bitrate of videos it streams in Europe for the next 30 days. The company says the move will reduce its footprint on European networks by approximately 25 percent.

"Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings -- and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus -- Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days," the company said in a statement to Engadget.

The move comes after EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton called on streaming platforms, telecom companies and consumers to reduce their bandwidth usage during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. "We all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation," he said in a statement to Politico.

While it seemed Netflix would consider the commissioner's request, imminent action didn't appear likely. "We've been focused on network efficiency for many years, including providing our open connect service for free to telecommunications companies," a spokesperson for Netflix told the Financial Times.

The coronavirus pandemic and the push for social distancing has caused a massive spike in internet usage throughout the European continent. In Italy, for instance, Telecom Italia saw a 75 percent increase in residential broadband and mobile usage last weekend. According to an Ookla data set, mean download speeds on both mobile and broadband connections have decreased throughout the country as a result of so many people turning to the internet for work and entertainment. It's unclear at the moment if other platforms like YouTube will follow suit and implement similar measures.

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