So We’re Working From Home. Can the Internet Handle It? What is the impact of Coronavirus on the internet.
With millions of people working and learning from home during the pandemic, internet networks are set to be strained to the hilt.
Most people rarely had problems with his home internet service — until last week. That was when he began working from his house because of the coronavirus.
As millions of people across the world shift to working and learning from home this week to limit the spread of the coronavirus, they will test internet networks with one of the biggest mass behavior changes that the nation has experienced.
That is set to strain the internet’s underlying infrastructure, with the burden likely to be particularly felt in two areas: the home networks that people have set up in their residences, and the home internet services that those home networks rely on.
That infrastructure is generally accustomed to certain peaks of activity at specific times of the day, such as in the evening when people return from work and get online at home. But the vast transfer of work and learning to people’s homes will show new heights of internet use, with many users sharing the same internet connections throughout the day and using data-hungry apps that are usually reserved for offices and schools.
That may challenge what are known as last-mile services, which are the cable broadband and fiber-based broadband services that pipe the internet into homes. These tend to provide a very different internet service from what’s available in offices and schools, which typically have “enterprise grade” internet broadband service. In broad terms, many offices and schools essentially have the equivalent of a big pipe to carry internet traffic, compared with a garden hose for most homes.
On top of that, home networks — such as the Wi-Fi routers that residents set up — can be finicky. Many consumers have broadband plans with much lower capacity than in the workplace. And when many people are loaded onto a single Wi-Fi network at the same time to stream movies or to do video conferencing, that can cause congestion and slowness.
“We just don’t know” how the infrastructure will fare, a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in America has stated. “What is sufficient bandwidth for a couple of home computers for a husband and wife may not be sufficient when you add students who are going to class all day long operating from home.”
Use of bandwidth-hogging apps and games has already shot up in places where the coronavirus has taken hold. In Italy, housebound youngsters playing PC games in large part pushed up internet traffic over one local landline network, Telecom Italia SpA, more than 90 percent compared with traffic in February, said Francesca Valagussa, a company spokeswoman. And in parts of Europe last week, traffic to WebEx, a videoconferencing service run by Cisco, soared as much as 80 percent, the company said.
In Seattle, which has been a center of the virus outbreak in the United States, internet traffic started spiking on Jan. 30, nine days after the first positive case of the virus in the area with people accessing news and using chat apps, according to security company Cloudflare. Last week, overall internet traffic in Seattle rose 30 percent compared with a normal week for the city in January.
Cogent Communications and Zayo, which provide internet services to big companies and municipalities, said they had also seen recent spikes in traffic from banks, retailers and tech companies in the United States to their remote employees.
In response, local internet suppliers said they were confident they could meet the demands placed on their home internet services, which includes cable broadband, fiber-based broadband, mobile LTE services, and Wi-Fi hot spots. They added that they were taking measures to help people who were working and learning from home.
It is said the entirety of the internet infrastructure — home networks, last-mile services, private networks run by companies, the points of interchange between networks and the backbone superhighway at the core — would be stress-tested in coming days.