Netflix Cuts Streaming Video Quality in Israel

Netflix March 23 said it is lowering the streaming quality of its video streams in Israel as ISPs in the country say consumer demand on broadband networks has increased 30% during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

With more than 1,000 COVID-19 infections reported thus far in Israel, residents have been advised to avoid large groups and work from home if possible. That has put increased demands on regional ISP networks. Netflix reportedly has more than 42 million subscribers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

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“Following the discussions between Israel’s Communications Ministry and Netflix — and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus — we have decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Israel for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce traffic on Israeli networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the SVOD pioneer said in a statement, first reported by Reuters.

Netflix last week spearheaded a reduction in streaming video quality in Europe at the request of the European Union. Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube quickly followed suit. Disney has also delayed the launch of its SVOD platform in France from March 24 to April 7.

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Netflix’s Reed Hastings Meeting With European Union to Discuss Bandwidth Issues During Virus Pandemic

With much of Europe under quarantine due to widespread outbreaks of the coronavirus, the European Union is calling on streaming video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video to curtail offering content in high definition.

The EU encompasses more than 450 million people, many of whom are home-bound as local governments and health officials battle to contain further spread of COVID-19, which has seen Europe surpass China in the number of infections and deaths.

With people turning to over-the-top video, demands on local ISPs and networks could exceed capacity, according to European Commissioner Thierry Breton, who tweeted “#SwitchtoStandard definition when HD is not necessary.”

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Breton reportedly met Netflix CEO Reed Hastings on March 18 about the issue and is scheduled to do the same today. Netflix, in a statement to CNN Business, said the service already limits streaming to network capacities, including housing content closer to subs in each country.

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

By 2024, about 63 million Europeans are projected to have a Netflix subscription — up from 40 million in 2018. Netflix had 106 million international subs at the end of 2019, in addition to 61 million in the United States.

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Purdue University Bans Netflix, Other Streaming Use in Classrooms

Purdue University has begun banning students from accessing streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube in classrooms.

The reason: Burgeoning streaming video and music service use during classes had slowed the school’s Wi-Fi speed to a crawl and was distracting students.

What began as an experiment in the fall expanded across the West Lafayette, Ind., campus March 18 as students returned from spring break.

“There’s a finite amount of bandwidth available,” Mark Sonstein, executive director of IT infrastructure at Purdue, told the Chicago Tribune. “If you have people who are streaming a movie, then they are consuming all of the available bandwidth.”

While many high schools and middle schools routinely collect cellphones from students before classes, Purdue reportedly is one of the first universities to erect a tech barrier.

“I heard about the bandwidth problem, but when the solution was implemented, I heard crickets,” said chemical engineering professor Steve Beaudoin.

Indeed, student reaction to the ban has been scant as most aren’t streaming episodes of “True Detective” or “Game of Thrones” during Chem 101, despite sitting in a lecture hall that seats 100.

Nineteen-year-old computer science sophomore Nick Pappas told the Tribune he doesn’t believe SVOD use in classrooms is as common as school officials contend. But he has seen some students engage – especially if they have wireless earbuds.

“People can get away with it so easily,” he said.

“If the bulk of the students participate, either because they agree with the purpose of the program, or because they aren’t inclined to take the steps necessary to circumvent it, then the purpose — freeing up bandwidth for academics — will be achieved,” Sonstein said.