The EU is urging Netflix to stop streaming in high definition to avoid straining the internet during the coronavirus outbreak

The EU is urging Netflix to stop streaming in high definition to avoid straining the internet during the coronavirus outbreak

FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is pictured on a television in this illustration photograph taken in Encinitas, California, U.S., January 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Blake


  • The EU is asking Netflix to switch its streams to standard definition amid the coronavirus outbreak. 
  • Video, which accounts for the bulk of network traffic, puts a strain on the infrastructure of the internet. Netflix videos in HD, for example, use 3 GB of data per hour compared with standard definition videos, which use 1 GB of data per hour. 
  • Netflix automatically adjusts the quality of your videos based on your internet capacity, but you can also change it yourself in your account settings. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The European Union is asking Netflix to switch to standard definition streams amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton on Wednesday tweeted that he'd spoken with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and asked Netflix to stop showing video in high definition in order to "secure Internet access for all." 


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

As the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, people are increasingly turning to solutions like video calls and streaming to stay connected or entertained. It's not clear yet how networks, particularly home networks and the internet service providers that power them, will be able to handle the increase in people working from home or students taking classes virtually. 

For example, Akamai, a major cloud and cybersecurity provider, has already seen an increase in daily traffic of more that 50%, but appears to be holding up just fine. Akamai said it's services are running normally. Companies like AT&T have also said they're prepared for times like this. 


But video, which accounts for about 70% of network traffic, puts the biggest strain on the internet. Netflix videos in standard definition, for example, use 1 GB of data per hour, while HD videos use 3 GB of data per hour

While Netflix automatically adjusts your stream quality based on your internet capacity, you can also control on your own whether you're viewing Netflix movies and TV shows in HD or standard definition. Once you're logged into your Netflix account, click on your profile icon in the upper-right corner, then select "Account," scroll down to "My Profile," and click "Playback settings." You can then select the quality of your video and Netflix will let you know how much data your videos will use. 

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider's parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.Generation Z from Business Insider Intelligence