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This is why YouTube’s video quality just got worse and how to fix it

Updated 03/24/2020 – YouTube announced that starting this week it will reduce the quality of video playback on its site for everyone around the globe for one month. This is an effort to ease the stress on internet networks due to the massive number of people online during the coronavirus pandemic. You can still watch videos in HD but you have to change the setting manually. We’ll tell you how to adjust this setting in the next section.

In these frightening times, we all need to do our part to make things better for everyone. That begins with taking advice from officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by practicing social distancing.

But what should you do if you start feeling ill and don’t want to leave the house? Easy, just see a doctor online through a telemedicine visit. Tap or click here to find out how to get a coronavirus assessment without leaving home.

Now, with so many people stuck at home, there is a new tech problem to start worrying about. The sheer number of people online could lead to instability with your internet connection. Thankfully, there is something we can do about it before it’s too late.

How to adjust video quality on YouTube

For the next month, when you watch videos on YouTube they will play in standard definition (SD). Streaming videos in HD uses more bandwidth than SD, which is why YouTube has changed to default. But you can still watch in HD if you’d like. Here’s how:

On your computer

In the video player select Settings >> Quality >> select your preferred video quality.

Note: If you select 240p or 360p videos will load faster.

On mobile devices

In the video player, select the More icon — it’s the stacked three dots in the upper right corner >> Quality >> select your preferred video quality.

Note: If you select 240p or 360p videos will load faster.

On your TV

In the video player select the More icon>> tap Quality >> select your preferred video quality.

Note: If you select 240p or 360p videos will load faster.

Spike in internet usage overwhelms networks

With tens of millions of Americans staying home from work due to COVID-19, there is more time to spend online binge-watching shows, streaming music and staying connected to family and friends through video chatting apps.

And don’t forget all the people who are now working from home who need that internet connection to do their jobs. Another issue people might run into is going over their data limits.

Fortunately, most providers have signed the “Keep America Connected Pledge.” That means they won’t charge overage fees and have promised not to cut service off to those who can’t pay their internet bills for the next 60 days. Tap or click here for the details.

All of this online activity might lead to networks being overwhelmed, which could result in really slow internet or no internet connection at all. This is actually happening in Europe right due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Things have gotten so bad that officials with the European Union are asking streaming services like Netflix and YouTube to limit their content to standard definition, removing the option for HD altogether. Currently, this is only for those in Europe, but with more people in the U.S. staying home, it’s expected to happen here, too.

RELATED: How to sanitize your Amazon packages from coronavirus particles

Government officials and health organizations have been asking everyone to pitch in to “flatten the curve.” That’s just a catchy term meaning to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Now, it’s time to start thinking about flattening the connectivity curve.

How to help flatten the connectivity curve

If enough people are online at the same time, it could result in slow internet or no connection at all. This is not a good time to be without the internet or have unreliable service, there is just too much valuable information online that people need access to.

RELATED: How to set up mobile payments to avoid coronavirus

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg already eluded to spikes in usage becoming a problem with some of its services. He told news outlets, during a conference call concerning COVID-19, that the call volume on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp has doubled in recent days.

Zuckerberg went on to say these usage surges are becoming a challenge and, “We need to make sure we are on top of this from an infrastructure perspective.” Honestly, that’s the best idea he’s had in years.

The good news is that so far, broadband and mobile networks in the U.S. have been able to handle the spike in usage. But for how long?

With that in mind, here are some things we can all do to help flatten the connectivity curve:

  • Make calls the old fashioned way – Instead of using VOIP services or WhatsApp to make phone calls, use your landline if you still have one or turn off Wi-Fi calling on your smartphone. That just means you’ll connect through a cell tower when making a call instead of the internet.
  • Find other forms of entertainment – Instead of staying glued to your screen and binge-watching the entire Marvel catalog, spend some time enjoying other forms of entertainment that you don’t need to connect to the internet for — especially during peak hours. Play a board game with the kids, read your favorite novel that’s been collecting dust for years, take a walk to get some much-needed fresh air — these are all good ideas, even when we’re not battling a pandemic.
  • Use lower quality streaming – If you must use streaming services, go ahead and choose standard-definition videos instead of the higher quality HD versions. I know, I know. It doesn’t sound very appealing watching “The Matrix” unless it’s in HD, but it’s better than being without internet service at all, wouldn’t you say?

Following simple suggestions like these to help flatten the connectivity curve will help ease the burden put on networks and hopefully keep us from seeing outages altogether. Remember, every little bit helps and as long as we all pitch in, we’ll get through this just fine.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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