Due to the coronavirus, the load on social networks and the Internet has grown. Services are cutting back on quality, but providers are coping

How the pandemic affected the global network

Reuters Photos

On March 19, the European Commission invited Netflix and other streaming to cut video quality to reduce the load on the Internet during a pandemic. As explained by European Commissioner Thierry Breton, the cause of increased traffic was remote work and self-isolation due to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Since then, not only online movie theaters have done this, but also many services – from Facebook to YouTube. TJ figured out whether the load has really increased and whether the Russians will face problems.

Social networks and services massively cut quality because of fear of load on the Internet

Netflix almost immediately agreed to the restrictions: the service for the first time deliberately cut the quality of content by 30 days in order to reduce the load on European networks by 25%. The company worsened the bitrate of the video stream, but promised that the quality will remain “good”. Following Netflix, similar measures began to be introduced by other streaming services and social networks. In most cases, restrictions apply only to Europe and the UK.

YouTube did not limit the video quality for everyone, but worsened the default setting: now users will automatically see videos in 480p resolution until they change the setting manually. At first, the changes affected only the European Union, and then they spread to the whole world, including Russia.

Amazon and Apple, like Netflix, changed the bitrate of the video stream for the whole of Europe without taking into account Russia. Prime Video explained that they are working with local authorities and Internet providers to reduce the load on the network, but did not disclose details. According to 9to5Mac, Apple TV + cut the quality, so now the content is available only with serious artifacts.

After that, Facebook announced that they would cut the quality on their social networks, including Instagram. And Disney +, which so far has not even been launched in all EU countries, also decided to lower its bitrate.

One of the last companies to respond to a call from EU authorities was Sony. On March 24, the company announced that it would cut download speeds on the PlayStation Network service to reduce network load in the EU.

The load on the Internet and social networks has really grown, but providers are still coping

During the last conference call with investors, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg said that the social network is facing loads “far beyond” those that are usually fixed during the New Year holidays. He also clarified that the company is working to always remain affordable.

As TJ told VKontakte, over the week, views of the news feed increased by 10%, video views – by 16%, and the daily audience of the gaming platform increased by 10%.

In “Kinopoisk HD” (included in “Yandex”) recorded a “significant increase” in both viewing time and daily audience of the service. The company attributed this to the fact that more and more people remain at home and use the promotional code, which gives free access to the service until the end of April.

How Internet traffic grew in Italy Image Cloudflare

How Internet traffic grew in Italy Image Cloudflare

In the European Union, providers recorded a “significant” increase in traffic in the region amid quarantine in different countries: only Vodafone reported a 50% increase. Most likely, streaming services are responsible for the majority of the load: according to Sandvine’s report for 2019, online video accounted for 60% of the total traffic.

However, Internet traffic has grown not only in Europe but also in the USA. According to Verizon, over the week of March 12-19, Internet use increased by 22%: the company also recorded an increase of 12% in the category of streaming services and by 30% in VPN. At the same time, the segment of online games grew by 75%, while the use of social networks did not change.

AT&T and Comcast also recorded peak network loads, but are confident that they will cope with traffic growth. AT&T explained that most of the traffic was provided by video streaming, and on March 13, the company recorded a historical record for demand for Netflix. To cope with the load, the company deployed FirstNet portable cells from the states of Indiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and New York.

In Cloudflare, which provides a distributed load on sites, they said that in Seattle, Internet use grew by 40%. The city became the first place in the United States where the coronavirus was discovered. Changes were also recorded in Amsterdam, London and Frankfurt: there a week from March 9, when two days were left before the pandemic was announced, traffic grew by 10-20%.

According to Cloudflare, traffic growth of 40% is comparable to the load that is usually observed during the Super Bowl or the Olympic Games, said general director and co-founder of the service, Matthew Prince. Cloudflare did not record “noticeable delays, interruptions or data loss” that would indicate network congestion. The company concluded that providers coped well with the situation.

According to telecom experts, problems with the Internet may arise, but this is more dependent on specific regions. Users will experience delays in places with outdated broadband DSL connections, and fiber networks are likely to withstand traffic growth.


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