YouTube is cutting its streaming quality to standard definition in the European Union.


Angela Lang/CNET

YouTube is following Netflix’s lead in cutting the quality of its video streaming from high definition to standard in the European Union, it confirmed to CNET, as the bloc’s leaders try to reduce strain on the internet during the coronavirus outbreak. Since more people are working from home and children are staying out of school, internet usage has spiked.

“We are in ongoing conversations with the regulators, governments and network operators all over Europe, and are making a commitment to temporarily default all traffic in the UK and the EU to standard definition,” the Google-owned video streaming service said in a statement.


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The service said it had seen “only a few usage peaks,” but is reducing the default quality in the EU for 30 days. Video quality can still be manually adjusted.

European Commissioner Thierry Breton called on streaming services to switch to standard definition “when HD is not necessary” on Thursday. YouTube decided to reduce its default streaming quality after Breton spoke to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki, as previously reported by Reuters.

“I warmly welcome the initiative that Google takes to preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the COVID-19 crisis by having YouTube switch all EU traffic to SD by default,” he wrote Friday, citing Reuters.

Across the Atlantic, 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. As of Friday morning, it had infected more than 244,000 people and caused more than 10,000 deaths globally.

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