Social-media giants Facebook and Instagram, along with Apple and Amazon, are the latest companies to voluntarily throttle their video content to conserve bandwidth as Europe struggles with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
By intentionally reducing the quality of their videos, the listed companies (along with Netflix, YouTube, and Disney, which had previously started doing so) are helping to minimize network congestion in Europe. As a result of mandatory lockdowns and voluntary self-quarantines, a substantial portion of the European population is remaining indoors—and using the internet. Without throttling, the web may well become overwhelmed and brought to a near standstill, speed-wise.
Last week, European Union officials asked leading streaming and tech companies to throttle their content, to prevent the potential internet slowdown from becoming a reality. According to data from a system that monitors countries’ average internet speeds, the majority of European states hadn’t yet experienced a decrease in bandwidth. Nevertheless, video content from the aforementioned brands will now play in standard definition, and it’s unclear at this time when the throttling measures will cease, or if similar quality limits will eventually apply to U.S. streaming.
Aside from China, where COVID-19 originated from, and Iran, which was slow to institute public safety guidelines and lacks the health infrastructure of developed countries, the coronavirus has hit Europe especially hard.
Italy, Spain, Germany, and France’s approximately 136,000 COVID-19 cases account for nearly 40 percent of total worldwide diagnoses. More unfortunately, COVID-19 deaths in Italy and Spain, which have a combined population of about 107 million people, constitute 50 percent of overall COVID-19 deaths to date.
In response to the unprecedented health crisis, Italy, Spain, and France established country-wide lockdowns, and German states have been tightening restrictions on public gatherings and activities.
The United States, for its part, has seen many state and local governments implement large-gathering bans and stay-at-home orders to curb the coronavirus’s spread. Last week, the federal government called for a 15-day social distancing initiative, spearheaded by state and local measures, to reduce COVID-19’s prevalence.
President Trump and government officials are expected to evaluate the coronavirus situation and the social-distancing order at the end of the 15-day period.