Netflix says it has finally returned its New Zealand service to full quality.
At the start of lockdown, as New Zealand broadband busted at its seams, Netflix agreed to cut its bit rate - or the amount of internet bandwidth it consumes, which in turn underpins video quality - by 25 per cent.
Now, with internet usage patterns having returned more-or-less to normal, our biggest bandwidth hog is back up to full throttle.
A Netflix Australia New Zealand spokesman said the company restored its full bit rate after consulting with Communications Minister Kris Faafoi, Chorus and ISPs.
Close to the brink
The fourth week of March will always be remembered mainly for empty supermarket shelves and markets in freefall as we prepared for the first week of lockdown.
But it was also a scary time for our digital economy as Chorus' broadband network went closer and closer to its theoretical maximum peak.
On Monday March 16, traffic spiked to a peak of 2.24 terabits per second - high, but still comfortably within Chorus' 3.5Tbps limit.
But the following week, as level 4 lockdown was announced, peak traffic set a series of new highs as people swapped face-to-face taking for Zoom. Netflix, which would later report a record surge in customers, was also getting hammered, by locked-down workers and stuck-at-home schoolkids.
An anxious nation hit news sites and social in record numbers, and with record frequency, and at times sought to lose itself in Tiger King.
On Thursday March 25 - our first night in lockdown - broadband traffic peaked at more than the 2.6Tbps, surpassing the previous record set during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
The following day, it hit 3.03Tbps. Suddenly, Chorus' ceiling didn't look that far away.
A circuit-breaker was required, and it arrived from Netflix with its 25 per cent bit rate cut.
There was an immediate easing, and now, of course, many of us are back in the office under level 1 - some or most of the time - and again barking over participants or gathering in meeting rooms instead of huddling in front of webcams.
And when we get Zoom fatigue, we now know the cure: everyone's cams off except the active speaker.
The latest stats from Chorus (below) show that data usage has now pulled back and is established at pre-lockdown levels.
Chorus, for the record, says there was never any reason to panic. Usage was always at controllable levels, and service outages were largely confined to where older technology was controlling voice calls. Isolated ISP outages were largely bad luck. Vodafone, for example, had third-party contractors slice through fibre lines twice.
Separately, Netflix Australia-New Zealand posted to social media that it was "donating one million Aussie dollars to help those hardest hit in the industry in Australia. The grant is available to the most vulnerable freelancers in the audiovisual and movie sectors, who have been unable to work during the global production shut down."
A spokesman said, "There is nothing in NZ on the fund front at this stage."