Internet services Comcast, Charter and Verizon, are beefing up their networks to handle increased network traffic in response to the coronavirus. They’re working to handle demand spikes, and accommodate high internet use during the day, not just in the evening when people return from their commutes.
Former FCC Chairman and cable lobbyist Tom Wheeler says, “We just don’t know,” how infrastructure will do. “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,” he tells The New York Times.
Seattle has been a center of the virus outbreak in the United States. Internet traffic there started spiking on January 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 provide internet services to big companies and municipalities. They said they’d seen recent spikes in traffic from banks, retailers and tech companies in the U.S. to their remote employees, according to the NYT.
In response, Verizon, Charter, Cox, Comcast and AT&T said they were confident they could meet the demands placed on their home internet services, which includes cable broadband like Xfinity, fiber-based broadband like FIOS, mobile LTE services from Verizon and AT&T, and WiFi hotspots. They’re taking measures to help people who are working and learning from home.
Cox said last week it would automatically upgrade users of its basic broadband internet package, with speeds of 30 megabits per second, to a package with 50 megabits per second. That could help people deal with a rise in internet use and apps that require faster speeds and more bandwidth. Comcast said for the next two months, it would lift broadband data caps so that those who surpassed their data plan limits wouldn’t be penalized.
AT&T, Verizon and Charter are preparing to increase capacity on their networks if needed, with more equipment to upgrade networks and emergency roll-in cell towers. “Verizon operates its networks every day as though it’s a snow day,” said company CTO Kyle Malady. “Delivering reliable networks is what we do.”
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