back to article Forget toilet roll, bandwidth is the new ration: Amazon, YouTube also degrade video in Europe to keep 'net running amid coronavirus crunch

Amazon Prime Video and Google's YouTube have joined Netflix in dialing down their video stream quality in the European Union, Switzerland, and the UK for 30 days to preserve internet stability during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thierry Breton, Internal Market Commissioner for the European Commission, conferred with Netflix CEO Reed …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Excuse me...

    While I continue to enjoy my movies stored locally on my system in full quality during this outbreak.

    (And my music in lossless quality, also locally saved.)

    1. MR J

      Re: Excuse me...

      What service did you use to buy all of your legally stored full quality movies?

      1. Def Silver badge

        Re: Excuse me...

        They’re called shops. Duh.

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Excuse me...

        In my case, one of those old fashioned things called 'a shop'. We used to have them, but they're probably all gone now.

      3. mike.dee

        Re: Excuse me...

        I pay TV license and still have a VHS and a DVD recorder, but now I an using a DVB receiver with an USB had disc attached.

        Besides nowadays you can find a lot of CD, DVD ad even blue rays at low prices, especially in flea markets but in some small grocery stores you can find them, typically near the cash register like the chewing gums and the alkaline batteries.

    2. Piro

      Re: Excuse me...

      You're also saving the environment. Streaming is very energy intensive.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Excuse me...

        “ You're also saving the environment. Streaming is very energy intensive.”

        Oh no it’s not.

        That claim has been debunked many many times

        1. overunder Silver badge

          Re: Excuse me...

          "That claim has been debunked many many times"

          Well, you'd have to have VERY reliable sources to believe that as I'm not sure how continuously powering 50+ network devices around the globe is cheaper than temporarily powering 1... your own (mathematically I don't see how it's possible, do you have sources?).

          But even if you're right, all things aside, all of this has shown the state and quality of streaming media services, which is poor at their core.

          But to be serious, I'm 100% certain that COVID-19 was engineered by the MPAA and RIAA to help boost optical disc sales, which is obvious because the new PS5 and XBOX are just 6 months away.

          1. heyrick Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: Excuse me...

            "I'm 100% certain that COVID-19 was engineered by the MPAA and RIAA to help boost optical disc sales,"

            Except that anybody can stream from the comfort of their own sofa, but buying actual shiny discs means - oh my god - going near other people. Touching things other people have touched. Yuck! No!

          2. Filippo

            Re: Excuse me...

            "I'm not sure how continuously powering 50+ network devices around the globe is cheaper than temporarily powering 1... your own (mathematically I don't see how it's possible, do you have sources?)."

            I think the numbers change substantially once you factor in the energy that goes into manufacturing the disc and moving it around. That said, I don't actually have any of those numbers, and I could be persuaded either way.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Excuse me...

              If your hypothetical streaming service only supports one person then you are correct. But they don't - they support hundreds of thousands of concurrent streams, pretty much 24*7.

              The comparison is therefore with *all* of those local boxed being powered up (periodically or permanently).

              If everyone had a USB stick in the side of their TV with the media on it then you'd probably draw ahead - but you haven't accounted for the resources associated with getting that data to the USB stick in the first place. If people have a NAS of some sort then you start to lose, badly.

              "one" disk storing a video is going to be more power efficient than thousands of disks doing the same.... Yes I know there will be dozens of copies on Netflix servers, but the number will still be orders of magnitude lower than the number of people streaming each video.

              The cost of running network switching gear isn't actually that high. A very brief squint at Cisco's product pages* suggests that 1W per Gbps is going to cover three hops... So that's 20 HD streams over 3 hops for 1W.

              Netflix do their level best to minimise the hops, but a typical disk (Assuming spinning rust for a personal video storage solution) takes ~5W.

              That's 300 "stream hops" in terms of network cost, and assumes you only fire up one disk. It also ignores any other components in your server, which of course are far better distributed at scale, further reducing your efficiency.

              Of course Netflix uses disks as well - but they will be using them far more effectively than a home user.

              The comparison isn't necessarily easy, but I certainly don't think it comes down easily on the side of local storage *for this application*.

              *

              Cisco 9000 series:

              > The typical power consumption per 10-Gigabit Ethernet port is less than 3.5 watts (W).

              > The typical power consumption per 40- and 100-Gigabit Ethernet port is less than 14W and 22W respectively.

            2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

              Re: Excuse me...

              > I think the numbers change substantially once you factor in the energy that goes into manufacturing the disc and moving it around.

              All of which only happens once till it rests on a shelf generating nothing further.

              And no need to consider the blu-ray player, it uses enough energy to light a couple of led bulbs.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Excuse me...

                "And no need to consider the blu-ray player, it uses enough energy to light a couple of led bulbs."

                Most switch gear uses alot less than that per stream - order of magnitude less in fact.

                10W for the first BR player on google... That's more than a hard disk!

                (and even the .25W standby would cover a few network devices)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pornhub have followed suit and will now only be offering one girl one cup.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And in other news, Amazon S3 buckets have been renamed 'jars' to save bandwidth, Google Cloud will now become 'A Bit Misty', and the most famously revolting porn on the internet has been downgraded to hamsterse.cx...

    2. John Gamble

      I'll hate myself for up-voting this, but I'm up-voting this.

  3. TDog
    Unhappy

    Kindle

    Now takes twice as long to recharge due to an over the air update - this too will protect bandwidth by reducing the number of books I download daily in my enforced boredom.

  4. Dwarf Silver badge

    Why

    So what about the customers that are paying more than £2 a month for a decent internet provider, why should we have to endure lower quality video because of the cheap end of the ISP market ?

    As to the internet providers that asked for this, stop being a cheapskate and upgrade your networks to cope with 2020-2030 workloads.

    Commercial pressures apply to all markets, so if people move away from cheap ISP's that don't invest in their infrastructure, then they have nobody to blame but themselves. The same providers should not have the ability to pull down other services to that of the lowest common denominator.

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Why

      Good time to hire ditch diggers, plenty of people looking for low paid work.

    2. Trev 2

      Re: Why

      But people don't understand which bit causes the slowdowns and tech support on Talktalk, BT etc will always blame someone else including your internal wiring.

      The majority won't switch to more expensive providers else those above would gave gone out of business years ago.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Why

      Oh, you are so right. Why should you have to sacrifice anything in a time of global pandemic ?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why

      10 years of wasted investment by UK government in non FTTP solutions paying off right now. Yeah well done idiots.

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Why

        10 years of wasted investment by UK government in non FTTP solutions paying off right now. Yeah well done idiots.

        Only 10, are you sure? Sounds more like playing politics to me.

        1. genghis_uk Bronze badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Why

          Have you not noticed that for any given problem, at least one post will blame the Tories? Whether it can actually be laid at the door of No.10 or not; often despite the previous incumbents doing the same, it's the Tories fault!

          In this case, it was mainland Europe requesting the bandwidth reduction, not the UK, but we all know who is to blame...

    5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    6. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Why

      So what about the customers that are paying more than £2 a month for a decent internet provider, why should we have to endure lower quality video because of the cheap end of the ISP market ?

      Well, I'm sure you've noticed this extremely dangerous virus that is killing folk and overwhelming the NHS. Well, here's the thing, in order to have money for the government to give folk and to pay the NHS, they have to have people working to tax. That, in a nutshell, is why your Netflix isn't remotely important right now you utter fucking assclown.

      IF, and personally I see it as a big if, but if the country has insufficient broadband capacity for people to work from home, and for you to kill time watching tv/movies/porn/other-assclowns-on-youtube, then the latter is toast.

      FFS. And they let these people vote?!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess they don't trust their caches at the network edge to deliver their service ?

    Or they do, and this is just virtue signalling to look betterfor the next time they get government probed ....

    1. MR J

      I think it's more that they don't trust the ISP to be able to handle the traffic, and would end up with complaints. Many of the huge US carriers would love Netflix to pay extra traffic charges (has nothing to do with Netflix and competition).

      So they are saving the network so the providers don't complain. Plus users would probably rather have VoIP, VPN, and VideoSharing type of services to stay at the lowest possible latency.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I guess they don't trust their caches at the network edge to deliver their service?"

      Check some of the public stats for ISP's using Netflix CDN's (i.e. XMission - https://stats.xmission.com/public/bandwidth/) to see the difference in user traffic versus traffic sent to the Internet.

      This is to protect under-provisioned exchanges (i.e. either rural locations with a lack of bandwidth or urban sites on the pending upgrade list) and mobile

  6. nxnwest

    Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

    Banks only have to hold a certain amount of cash on hand versus what's in deposits. Perhaps ISPs do the same. "100Mbps? We only have 10 on hand." They must count on only a percentage actually using it all at one time. My movies/music are stored locally and consumed on non-windows devices as SMB became a security risk and microsoft wants you to pay up 'Cos Cloud is better.' How's that work with this degradation? I will not be finding out. Not sure it's the people working from home causing the issues. It's the people 'not' working from home but still home. Overall a non-issue. Degraded video vs respirator. I'll take the video.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

      They do, kind of. It's called the "Contention Ratio".

      They have to assume that not everybody is using 100% of their available bandwidth at all times. Such usage would be completely unsustainable, and the fact is that most of the time a home broadband connection is only using a small fraction of that.

      1. Tomato42 Silver badge

        Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

        sure, but also an HD stream is not maxing out a 150Mbit connection

        so maybe they should be regulated like the utility they are to ensure they have extra capacity for situations like this (or bad weather)

        1. MR J

          Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

          A HD stream doesn't use anywhere near 150 Meg (I know you didn't say it does). 150 Meg would allow 6, at minimum, 4kHDR streams.

          Really that 4kHDR stream is going to be closer to 15 Meg, and if your player supports HEVC then 1080 will probably only use about 3 Meg.

          Low bandwidth is why there was a big move to HEVC (And why my old Roku box can only play birds).

          ISP's should be forced to publish their contention/utilization ratios. So we would know how much of a "buffer" there is.

          1. Piro

            Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

            15Mbit is in my opinion far too little for a 4Khdr stream. It's why standard full hd blurays tend to look better than any streaming.

        2. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

          sure, but also an HD stream is not maxing out a 150Mbit connection

          That'd be ok on family movie night, but two teenagers watching diferent things in different rooms while mam & dad try to work from home for two different companies is using rather more data.

          Frankly, who really cares if pewdieponce goes low res for a bit? Really?

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Bandwidth like Bank Reserves?

      As already mentioned, it comes down to cost and typical usage.

      If you absolutely want a 100Mbit uncontended link you can have one, many providers will do so, but be prepared to pay at least £500/month.

  7. tip pc Silver badge

    Uptick on torrenting then?

    If I understand this correctly, if you pay to stream you can now only get a terrible low def version, but if you torrent the same show you can get the highest def available.

    Why am I paying for prime, Netflix, Sky I’d I can download all for free?

    1. e^iπ+1=0

      Re: Uptick on torrenting then?

      Make sure you kick off the torrent a few seconds earlier to make sure it's ready when you want to watch.

      Why not do it before putting the kettle on for that cuppa you were planning to have with the film?

    2. Ian 55

      Re: Uptick on torrenting then?

      You can pay Netflix less to use it on fewer devices simultaneously: one device in SD is 7.99 (pounds or Euros - fortunately, I activated my free trial in France...) and two devices in 1080p HD is 11.99, four in up to 2000 HD is 15.99.

      As I can't tell the difference most of the time, and if someone else want to watch something while I'm watching, tough for them, I've got the cheaper plan.

  8. Caltharian

    Data Breach

    No news on the multiple reports of hacked netflix accounts in the last 24 hours?

    netflix customer support number unavailable in multiple countries

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Data Breach

      Hacked Netflix accounts?

      They're only "hacked" when you break up with that person or fall out with afriend. Until then they are shared accounts to avoid paying multiple times....

  9. Is AC used?

    Lets get real. Please.

    I am not a techy although I have followed El Reg for about 20 years even passing info about Phorm from the Blueyonder usenet setup. This Covid-19 is a very real thing. I have just tried to order food from Sainsburys just moments after midnight since a new day will appear on their calendar. Yet there are no new spaces for three weeks hence. Am I worried? Of course I am, I have limited mobility, poor health and since the government advice is to hibernate for twelve weeks for people in my category, no way to access food.

    Oh just tried to reply to the postmaster at Sainsbury and it bounced!

    Tech, yeah not always the best thing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overselling?

    Perhaps Netflix have sold too many accounts for their own server capacity?

    Its easy to blame the ISPs, but Netflix will also have been playing the contention game

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Overselling?

      Perhaps Netflix have sold too many accounts for their own server capacity?

      Netflix runs on AWS, so in practicality there's very little upper limit to their "server capacity".

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Overselling?

        Netflix runs on AWS, so in practicality there's very little upper limit to their "server capacity".

        Therein lies the problem. Netflix runs off AWS, so do a lot of other businesses who've trusted their operations to the cumulonumpty.. I mean cloud.

        Normally, peak Netflix would be evenings & weekends, so deconflicted with a lot of business traffic. Now we have schools closed, people 'working' from home, or suddenly finding themselves unemployed, so daytime usage probably a lot higher than normal. And that will probably get worse as more people isolate or self-isolate.

        So there's a snowball effect where both Netflix and AWS demand are spiking, along with egress charges from AWS to ordinary home working.. And there are lead times & costs to add Nx100Gbps links from Netflix/AWS to the Internet. Plus of course any contracts/SLAs between Netflix and Amazon for content delivery. They're both big enough & ugly (ok technically savvy) enough to do some traffic management, but amusingly they're also big lobbyists for Net Neutrality that prevents ISPs from helping.. Especially as the practical help would be trying to prioritise business AWS traffic over lower priority but higher volume streaming.. Which wouldn't in itself be that easy.

        On the contractual side, that might get interesting depending on how degraded the Netflix/Prime stuff ends up, ie the big streamers charge a premium for higher resolution content, so if you're paying for a 4K package, but ending up with 720p-ish video, you're not getting what you've paid for. From personal experience over the weekend, quality doesn't seem any worse than normal for my 'HD' stuff.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Overselling?

        This is wrong, in so many ways...

        First, Netflix does deploy much of their own hardware. Where it actually lives, we can only sort of know - some of it is with providers like Comcast, Charter, etc. near the end customers (as people have previously mentioned). Some might go to AWS datacenters, I don't really know, but it would seem an odd place for it.

        If they're still using AWS, my guess is it's for the UI more than for the content delivery itself.

        Second, regarding the statement "in practicality there's very little upper limit to their 'server capacity,'" it's important to remember that even AWS runs on servers, and has limits. A huge global spike in demand coupled with a global crunch on supply chains is bound to put them at some risk of insufficient capacity. It's not usually considered profitable to build to "OMG the world is ending and our capacity requirements just doubled overnight!" levels. Even for Amazon. If such things were typical, I'd be able to find bog roll at the supermarket right now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Overselling?

          "This is wrong, in so many ways..."

          Hmmm.

          Netflix does provide hardware (Open Connect appliances) assuming the ISP is large enough to be able to support the requirements (basically the ability to peer with a Netflix PoP at 5Gbps or more) but the majority of client control-plane and data is served from AWS if it is not cached by your ISP or an ISP upstream from your ISP.

          Looking purely at the UK, all the big consumer ISP's likely run OCA's - typically it would save them between 5-10x the International banwidth (i.e. updates are typically upto 40TB/day while customer traffic is typically >>250TB/day).

          More clients in the UK is primarily just more bandwidth that the local ISP's have to deal with (i.e. local Exchange uplinks to ISP PoP) rather than driving significantly more AWS server capacity.

          What I'm unsure of is the commercials around OFA's and the necessary uplinks to Netflix PoP's i.e. whether ISP's/Netflix contribute to this or any sharing of costs.

          Looking at the number of sites Netflix offer peering from, most large ISP's would already have significant capactiy at one or more of these points anyway.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It happened here

    Give the coronavirus crisis another week and there’ll be Stormtroopers rounding up Honest Journalists (aka Bloggers) with early morning knocks on the door.

    The Internet is about to go very Dark.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It happened here

      Are we talking empire strikes back dark or just plain old dark?

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: It happened here

        "Are we talking empire strikes back dark or just plain old dark?"

        Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies.

  12. coconuthead

    Not all telework is valuable

    User 1: some marketing lowlife or organisation (wo)man videoconferencing.

    User 2: a child, who cannot see their friends because school is closed, cannot see their nan because old age homes are closed to visitors, and is possibly terrified based on the adults around them, whose mind could be taken off things by some streamed video.

    I'm afraid I don't see User 1 as more worthy of bandwidth. Just possibly they should be grateful we've let them get away with it all these years.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Not all telework is valuable

      BT were saying yesterday that their network peaks were nowhere near as high as the highest levels recorded and have no doubts their network will handle whatever we throw at it. How that will stack up of the medium to longer term I don't know, but they gave actual numbers showing the truth of their statements.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Not all telework is valuable

      User 1: some marketing lowlife or organisation (wo)man videoconferencing.

      User 2: a child, who cannot see their friends because school is closed, cannot see their nan because old age homes are closed to visitors, and is possibly terrified based on the adults around them, whose mind could be taken off things by some streamed video.

      The problem is that User 3 Is more legitimate than either of those by a very long way - the person working for a legitimate private sector company trying their best to keep people employed to pay taxes to fund the rightly high level of government financing required during the pandemic.

      I've spent a lot of effort answering my children's questions about the pandemic and trying to make sure they're not "terrified". It's usually known as "parenting". Their mind is equally easy to take off events with broadcast media rather than streaming, or school work, or books, or any number of none bandwidth sapping activities. It's rather harder to work from home over the telly (unless you work in broadcasting of course).

  13. e^iπ+1=0

    Rebates

    Presumably Netflix et al will be automatically giving rebates to all those paying extra for 4k, hd services that are downgraded? Or do they need to request it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rebates

      Yes

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  14. Ommerson

    Last week the networks saw a marked swing towards VPN traffic, but it held up

    This week, many children will be at home as day, and many parents will be using the electronic child-minder. Could be an interesting week for the bottom-feeding end of the industry.

  15. Joe Bloggs II

    Sounds like it's their servers they're trying to protect, but are blaming it on the ISPs.

  16. Farcycle

    I'm happy for Netflix to drop my stream quality during these troubled times - will they also be dropping my subscription fee?

    1. LucreLout Silver badge

      I'm happy for Netflix to drop my stream quality during these troubled times - will they also be dropping my subscription fee?

      You could always simply take your business elsewhere and close your account? Or, I dunno, understand that these times are unprecedented and everyone is going to have to take a hit. Sorry that people dying in wholesale quantities is having such an adverse impact on your quality of streaming. FFS.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    same old...

    I presume the BBC and Amazon will now stay pixelated for the entire show instead of the first 10 minutes. QoS. They may have heard rumours of it.

  18. DuncanLarge Silver badge

    /me

    Looks around at shelves full of blu-rays

    /me smiles

  19. martinusher Silver badge

    Eyeballs are not high definition

    The original specification for color television was developed from testing actual eyeballs. It turned out that a typical human eyeball is barely SD, let alone HD, UHD or whatever. Most people think that the improvement in picture qualify in the move from analog to digital was due to everything going high definition; it wasn't. The real change came from dumping analog modulation combined with flat sceen displays. (Color television in the US, the early adopter, had to be seen to be believed -- it was beyond awful with bad primary colors, bad NTSC coding**, poor video bandwidth,most over the air TV was on VHF which made directional antennas problematical (and no co-siting like in the UK). It worked because its all we had and nobody knew what they were missing because few people had seen component feeds on professional monitors so had never seen 'high definition' until we got high definition flat panel displays.

    While its nice to have a ginormormous TV with all the trimmings most of the bandwidth it uses is wasted. Its extremely easy to fool the eye (ears are a whole different matter....). So dropping the rate to save bandwidth, especially for media consumed on a small screen like a tablet or phone, isn't going to be anything like as life-threatening as not having a working Internet (especially as a lot of our phone infrastructure now reliies on that Internet).

    (**Anallog TV in the UK worked a whole lot better but even so the compromises involved in coding the colour information always encured an imperfect picture. Also, people used to the 60Hz frame rate in the US actually see the UK's 50Hz rate as a flicker.)

  20. aaaashy

    Removing ads from websites

    While the likes of Netflix are reducing quality howsabout the numerous ads, especially the video ones, should be removed from websites too. They are unwanted, they use a ridiculous percentage of energy and seem to be a way of reducing server impact AND would be generally a good thing

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020