Disney+ Hops on the Low-Bandwidth Bandwagon, But Is This Change Necessary?

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This weekend, Disney+ announced that they will be throttling broadband utilization in Europe in an effort to ease the stress on broadband systems. This change comes following similar decisions by Netflix, Amazon, and Apple. Anti-coronavirus lockdowns have caused a surge in demand for home entertainment.

Throttling Bandwidth Utilization

Disney’s Chairman of Direct-to-Consumer And International, Kevin Mayer, broke the news in a statement that the company would be following the trend in the streaming industry. Starting March 24th, overall bandwidth utilization will be decreased by at least 25%. Disney+ is also delaying its launch in France until April 7th.

Mayer in the statement said, “In the coming days, we will be monitoring internet congestion and working closely with internet service providers to further reduce bitrates as necessary to ensure they are not overwhelmed by consumer demand.”

Following in Netflix’s Footsteps

Thursday last week, Thierry Breton, European Union Commissioner, had a call with Max Hastings, Netflix CEO, in which he requested that the company start streaming only in standard definition. Netflix opts for high definition streaming, which takes up more bandwidth and therefore slows down the connection for everyone. Netflix refused to make this change partially because many people stream Netflix on full-sized television screens. While the difference would not be very noticeable on a mobile device or small laptop, the effect on a large television screen would be a very pixelated picture. Instead, the company vowed to limit bandwidth usage to 25%. This move inspired the changes by the other streaming providers.

Is The Change Necessary?

There is some debate over whether this change is even needed. Internet providers in the United Kingdom said they have not actually had any trouble handling the surge in usage. Specialists in internet technologies even said that the ceiling for bandwidth supply is so high that there’s no way streaming would cause any real problems. MIT researcher, David Clark, said, “[What’s happening] just tells me they don’t understand how the internet works.” Streaming providers surely understand the inner workings of bandwidth, so it seems they might just be agreeing to these terms in order to save face. It is a good public relations move to appear to be cautious and responsive to government requests in this chaotic time. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a strong basis for users having their service throttled.

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