The internet is now even more critical to the world thanks to shelter-in-place orders and government-mandated shutdowns. Coronavirus has shifted the focus of how many individuals get entertainment and perform work. Remote workers have increased exponentially over the past two months. Network World mentions that large tech corporations are scrambling to securely support a large volume of remote contractors. However, because so many people are using these networks, there’s a genuine possibility of traffic overload. In this article, we’ll look at how major ISPs are dealing with the massive influx of usage over the coronavirus epidemic.
The Internet is Coping – For Now
Traffic increases in all parts of the world have skyrocketed. Cloudflare mentions that Italian traffic has spiked between 20-40% more than its pre-COVID levels. With the excess traffic being shunted through the internet, is there a possibility that it could become disabled due to overcrowding? At present, ISPs around the globe are dealing with the increase in traffic well. So far, no country has had too much of a surge in users to lead to massive overloading of their networking capacity. However, the concern is high in third-world countries operating on outdated hardware.
While developed countries can fall back on 4G or 5G connections, developing nations may still be using 2G and 3G hardware systems. These systems have serious drawbacks based on the volume of traffic they can handle. If the infrastructure in these places were to collapse, it would impact less economically developed nations severely.
Despite their advanced technological installations, developed nations are well aware that infrastructural collapse could doom their economies. Throttling of data throughput for specific uses is being investigated. Already, suggestions are being presented that could lead to a reduction in speed for some internet applications.
Throttled Streaming Quality for Everyone’s Benefit
CNBC notes that the EU’s commissioner for internal market and services has urged streaming and digital services providers to throttle bandwidth for streaming and game download throughout the union. His suggestion underlined the need for the region to understand that this network infrastructure needs to support the entire area, not just a subset of large-bandwidth users. To their benefit, a few companies have heeded his advice, with Netflix suggesting that they will start throttling streaming bandwidth in the region soon for a trial period of thirty days.
US Providers Seem Confident
Both Verizon and AT&T have noted that their networks for mobile and data traffic continue to meet the needs of their consumers. These companies further state that there is no increase in volatility even with the excess traffic. Verizon published a post detailing its increased dedication to its national 5G rollout during the coronavirus pandemic continues apace. AT&T has noted that they see fewer spikes in wireless connections but a more overall usage peak throughout the day as users telecommute rather than brave the streets. While the US seems to be very well-prepared for a massive influx of users, other countries aren’t doing so well.
Europe’s Infrastructure Starts to Show Cracks
The Irish Examiner mentions that COVID-19 is negatively impacting the operation of EU-area telecoms significantly. According to research by Spearline, a Cork-based telecom outfit, connections to Italy displayed a massive 10% failure rate, with voice quality dropping by as much as 4% for calls that did manage to connect. France also so a significant rise in their connection failures. The European country demonstrated up to 5% of calls to the country ending without a connection being established. The telecommunications infrastructure in Europe was never designed to take this excess amount of traffic. With quarantine orders and border closings becoming more prevalent now, businesses have to look to video and audio conferencing to keep their offices connected. Unfortunately, the volume of bandwidth these applications take up can cripple other users’ abilities.
Massive Increases in Broadband Usage
Unsurprisingly, the amount of broadband usage has gone up during the pandemic. Telecommuting, coupled with eCommerce and personal video-conferencing, has made the internet a necessary utility in the crisis. OpenVault noted that there were concerns early on in the crisis about peak-hours consumption, but recent trends have suggested that broadband providers can shoulder the load. Even if users are just logging on to migrate their WordPress site, that takes up bandwidth.
How Long Does the Internet Have?
While COVID isn’t crashing the internet yet, it’s unsure whether it will happen in the future. Most conferencing applications aren’t genuinely peer-to-peer and require a centralized server to manage connections. These management servers are where the problem will show up. PC Mag suggests that the internet’s downfall if it does happen during COVID, will come from overloaded servers, not from users overusing the available bandwidth. Whether this is true depends on how well-designed those servers are to handle the load, and how much longer the situation persists.