Internet Service Providers Respond To Increased Traffic During Pandemic
President Trump recently spoke with major internet service providers to discuss whether these companies were handling the surge in internet usage as half the country remains in lockdown, according to Bloomberg. The internet service providers on the call included Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and Charter Communications.
The surge in internet usage are matching levels typically only experienced on holidays. Verizon has confirmed that its networks facilitate on average 800 million wireless calls each day, which is only typically experienced on Mother’s day. AT&T experienced a 39% increase in wireless voice minutes as well.
“While Americans are using the internet to work, learn, shop, and connect with loved ones at unprecedented rates, our free-market based networks remain strong, secure, and the envy of the world,” the White House said in a statement.
Internet providers are working to expand capacity given that increased internet usage is expected to be the new normal. Verizon, Cox and AT&T are building more cell towers as well as increasing fiber connections, according to the New York Times. The temporary cell towers that will be installed are those that are typically used to provide internet service in areas hit by natural disasters.
“We’re seeing some signs of stress,” AT&T’s chief executive, Randall Stephenson, said. “We’re having to go out and do some augmentation of networks, and so we’re sending our employees out there to get that done, but right now the network is performing quite well.”
However, as internet service providers are working to increase their capacity, different streaming platforms and other online platforms are decreasing the quality of their service to meet the increase in demand. For example, Netflix is reducing its streaming quality in India, Australia and Latin America to result in 25% reduction in traffic, according to the New York Times. Additionally, YouTube is taking away the high definition option in all of its global streams. Microsoft has reached out to video game developers that create products for Xbox to stagger the release of updates so that traffic is not overwhelmed.
Zoom typically operates with 50% more capacity than the traffic it experiences, which provided the capability to take in the surge of users, but it is working to further increase capacity, according to Data Center Knowledge. The video conference platform is collaborating with internet service providers to increase bandwidth.
Startup internet service providers have also cropped up in order to meet the increased demand and provide cheaper internet services compared to national providers. Wander is a startup internet service provider that is growing in popularity throughout Southern California. It recently established a contract with Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to provide free internet to families with school age children in Santa Monica for the rest of the school year, according to Axios. Wander provides its services to 20,000 homes in Santa Monica and is expanding to West Los Angeles. It sells internet packages starting at $25 a month. Other startup internet service providers include Starry which serves homes in Boston, Washington, D.C. and Denver.
The increase in adults working from home has also increased their risk to privacy threats. Employers are using different platforms to ensure that their employees are being productive as they quarantine. For example, Team Viewer allows an employer to view from their desktop, the laptop screen of their employer. Zoom also has an attention tracking feature that allows employers to know when attendees have left wandered off the platform for more than 30 seconds, according to Vox.