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Netflix, YouTube to slow down streaming so internet won't overload

Apple and Amazon Prime Video are doing the same.

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- 01:58
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The EU asked Netflix and other streaming services to switch to standard definition.

Angela Lang/CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

As the coronavirus outbreak forces people to work from home and children to stay out of school, Netflix and Amazon Prime agreed to a European Union request that streaming services switch from high definition to standard in an effort to reduce the strain on the internet, as previously reported by CNN and the Guardian. Apple is doing the same with Apple TV+, as reported earlier by 9to5Mac, as is Google-owned YouTube.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted on Thursday that he'd spoken to Netflix boss Reed Hastings.

"To secure Internet access for all, let's #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary," Breton wrote.

Netflix agreed to reduce streaming bit rates across Europe for 30 days later Thursday, according to AFP. "We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members," Breton reportedly said in response.

"I welcome the very prompt action that Netflix has taken to preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the COVID19 crisis while maintaining a good experience for users," Breton said. "Hastings has demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility and solidarity."

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A Prime Video spokesperson confirmed to CNET that it's following suit.

"Prime Video is working with local authorities and Internet Service Providers where needed to help mitigate any network congestion, including in Europe where we've already begun the effort to reduce streaming bitrates whilst maintaining a quality streaming experience for our customers," the company said in an emailed statement.

Apple confirmed it's limiting the quality of streaming on its Apple TV+ service, which 9to5Mac reported now has lower resolution and visible artifacts in the images.

In the US, carriers have suspended internet data caps to help people communicate during the outbreak.

The new strain of coronavirus, which can develop into a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was discovered in Wuhan, China, in December and has since spread globally. As of Friday morning, it had infected more than 246,000 people and caused more than 10,000 deaths.