On Wednesday, Netflix subscribers across the United States and Europe, many of whom are home practicing social distancing or are temporarily laid off, reported an inability to log in or stream content once they had navigated to the streaming site, according to Variety.
“Some of our members in the U.S. and Europe were unable to use Netflix via our website for around an hour this morning…The issue is now fixed and we’re sorry for the inconvenience,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety.
According to the website DownDetector, Netflix users across the U.S. in Southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Texas, the Northeast, and parts of Northern Europe reported issues with either having no connection to Netflix or having issues with streaming actual content. Per subscriber reports of the outage across social media, attempts to log on to the service resulted in error messages including “Error NSES-500,” which the company’s website says, “typically points to a network connectivity issue that is preventing your device from reaching the Netflix service.”
Though the problem was short-lived, subscribers are left to wonder when or if it will happen again.
Netflix, and streaming services like it, have been experiencing record-high levels of traffic since shelter-at-home orders have been put in place worldwide. The streaming giant has already reported a 47 percent increase in traffic from March 14 through March 16. Meanwhile, other premium streaming services like HBO Now and Showtime have seen 90 percent and 78 percent increases in traffic, respectively, in that same three day period, per Forbes.
While Europe has already successfully requested that Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime limit their streaming quality in order to preserve internet bandwidth, the question of whether the rest of the world will follow suit still remains. On March 18, Theirry Breton – the European Union’s Commissioner for Internal Market – requested that Netflix switch to streaming in standard definition.
Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain.
To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary.
— Thierry Breton (@ThierryBreton) March 18, 2020
“Following the discussions between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings — and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus — Netflix has decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days…We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members,” the company said in a statement per Business Insider.
The limited bit rates have yet to hit the United States. However with Hastings, Netflix’ CEO, complying with the EU directive, it seems likely that similar requests from other governments will be honored as well.