With everyone at home using so much broadband during coronavirus shutdowns, are our networks at risk of being overwhelmed? The short answer is no, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr tells Yahoo Finance.
This contrasts with Europe where Netflix (NFLX) recently announced it was reducing streaming by some 25% for 30 days. Other companies like Facebook (FB), YouTube and Disney (DIS) announced similar measures. European regulators had asked streaming giants to be mindful of not choking the internet with their content during the coronavirus crisis. The European Union’s Internal Market and Services Commissioner, Thierry Breton, reportedly called Netflix CEO Reed Hastings last week urging him to dial back his service.
Not so in the U.S., says Commissioner Carr.
“We don't see any issues like that at all in the U.S. network,” he said. “We've pushed more high capacity spectrum out to wireless providers. And they can turn that out immediately. We enabled sharing regime where a wireless provider that has fallow spectrum in one part of the country can open that up to another provider that wants to use it.”
Entertainment companies use vast swaths of the internet because movie streaming requires so much broadband. A recent study reports that Netflix accounts for a staggering 15% of all global internet application traffic while Google’s YouTube uses over 11%.
But Carr said that he is not seeing any need to have services reduce the amount of usage by customers.
“We're not seeing any issues along those lines in the U.S.,” he said. “The networks are all great.”
In Europe, though, media companies are facing challenges to their broadband businesses. Last week Facebook and Disney cut back on streaming to customers, while Disney delayed its launch of Disney+ reportedly at the request of the French government.
Why is the U.S. in better shape?
“Providers here have been investing so much, in fact, twice as much per person per user as their counterparts in Europe,” Carr says. “So right now we have a robust, strong network and it's holding up very well. We're seeing peak usage extending over a longer period of time. And some of the traffic is shifting from business districts to suburban areas. But other than that, the network's performing very well right now.”
Good news for WFHers and coach potatoes too, which accounts for so many of us these days.
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.