Commission calls on streaming services, operators and users to prevent network congestion, discusses issue with European regulators

As a result of social distancing measures put in place across Europe to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, the demand for Internet capacity has increased, be it for teleworking, e-learning or entertainment purposes. This could put networks under strain at a moment when they need to be operational at the best possible level. In order to prevent congestion and to ensure the open Internet, Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has called on the responsibility of streaming services, operators and users. Streaming platforms are advised to offer standard rather than high definition and to cooperate with telecom operators. The latter should take preventive and mitigating measures, and encouraged users to apply settings that reduce data consumption, including the use of Wi-Fi or lower resolution for content. Following a phone call with the CEO of streaming provider Netflix, Reed Hastings, yesterday, Commissioner Breton, said: “Europe and the whole world are facing an unprecedented situation. Governments have taken measures to reduce social interactions to contain the spread of Covid-19, and to encourage remote working and online education. Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation.” EU operators indicate that there is an increased demand of connectivity. Although it is not causing a general situation of network congestions thus far, as a precautionary measure, the Commission and the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC) are discussing to set up a special reporting mechanism to monitor the internet traffic situation in each Member State to be able to respond to capacity issues. More generally, this situation underlines the importance of continued network investment to meet the Commission’s Gigabit Society objectives for 2025, in particular through 5G and fibre networks.