A lot of people are now talking about how the work you thought couldn’t be done or even taken home has now proven to be otherwise out of necessity. Working from home has suddenly become more than a luxury but an essential way to stay in employment even during lockdowns and quarantines. Unfortunately, our Internet infrastructure and services might not have been prepared for a sudden flood of users, forcing many video streaming services, now including Facebook, to throttle their quality to prevent taking down Europe’s Internet because of congestion.
Shelter-in-place orders and self-imposed quarantines have been seen as a prime opportunity for digital streaming to be the primary way people get to consume content, particularly movies. That’s why some distributors have stepped up their schedules to provide more content to customers, sometimes at the expense of the theater industry. Unfortunately, all those streaming services naturally required a decent Internet connection and, unfortunately, Europe doesn’t seem to be able to cope.
It started with the European Commission asking Netflix to reduce the quality of its videos in the region for fears of putting too much stress on the Internet infrastructure at a time when online communication is critical. Other streaming services followed suit, including YouTube, Amazon, Apple, and Disney+. Many of these have capped videos to stream only in SD (standard definition or 480p) in Europe due to those circumstances.
Facebook is the latest to join that fray, even though few would consider it a proper video streaming service. Speaking to Reuters, the social media giant said it would reduce the video streaming rate for both Facebook itself as well as Instagram in Europe to reduce network congestion in the region.
The concerns over streaming services in Europe does raise questions about Internet capabilities not just in the region but in the rest of the world as well. As the world moves more towards Internet-based services and workflows, Internet infrastructure around the world will become increasingly stressed over time. The COVID-19 pandemic may have just revealed how ill-prepared we are for that future.