By Steven Scheer
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Netflix said on Monday it would reduce network traffic in Israel over the next month following a government request to ease data congestion from people staying home due to the coronavirus.
The world's largest streaming media service has also cut traffic on networks in Europe to help internet service providers (ISPs) experiencing a surge in usage.
Israeli ISPs have reported an average increase of up to 30% in traffic congestion since the outbreak began, and many Israelis have taken to social media to complain of a slowdown in Internet speeds, prompting the telecoms regulator to ask Netflix to lower broadcasting bit rates.
Netflix, which had more than 42 million subscribers in Europe, Africa and the Middle East in the first quarter, agreed to comply and will make adjustments gradually over the next week, the Communications Ministry said.
"Given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, we have decided to begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Israel for 30 days. We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on Israeli networks by around 25% while also ensuring a good quality service," Netflix said.
In Europe, Netflix is removing its highest bandwidth within each resolution category -- Ultra High Definition (UHD), High Definition (HD) and Standard Definition (SD) -- for 30 days to help preserve the smooth functioning of the Internet during the coronavirus outbreak.
It said that in response to a request from the European Union last week, it tested and developed a way to reduce Netflix's traffic by 25% while maintaining the full range of video resolutions.
Netflix said it would continue to adhere with normal procedures for all other networks "until and unless they experience issues of their own".
(Reporting by Steven Scheer; Editing by Tova Cohen and Andrew Cawthorne)