Coronavirus creating extreme demands on home internet

You’ve probably noticed already your internet service might have slowed somewhat. With so many people working from home, schools closed, and social distancing keeping people in, we’re using the internet far more than ever before. The drain on the system is unprecedented.

According to ZNet, the city of Seattle, Washington saw a 40-percent increase in internet traffic. Italian internet use jumped up by 30-percent. Speaking to CNN, Blair Levin, a former Federal Communications Commission chief of staff and author of the agency’s 2010 plan to improve internet access nationwide noted, “This is going to be an enormous stress test for our communications networks.” Home internet was simply not designed to handle the level of traffic that is about to, or already, dragging down broadband speeds all over the country.

Over the last several years, many providers have upgraded lines, replacing old coaxial copper cable with fiberoptics to better handle the up and down speeds demanded by users.

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So why is your internet slowing?

It’s simply a matter of supply and demand. The more the demand, the more the signal is parsed out. Unfortunately, the demand is incredibly high right now. Colleges and schools are educating online, thousands are being asked to work from home and more people at home in general means video streaming is at an all-time peak.

Audio/video streaming requires the most signal. Home internet, however, generally features a higher download speed and lower for upload. This frees up the “pipe” since more people use streaming and other services that have programs coming from the provider to the consumer.

However, the needs of professional internet users mean higher demands on home internet systems. Virtual private networks (VPN), which provides workers with direct access to internal computers at the office and video conferencing like Zoom and GoToMeeting can put the greatest stress on modems and routers.

“When you’ve got a couple of parents at home working remotely, you’ve got a handful of kids home going to school remotely, the demands on the bandwidth become challenged,” said Tom Wheeler, a former chairman of the FCC. (Courtesy CNN.com)

Currently, providers are working with each other and the government to try to upgrade the grid. But for the moment people will need to do with what they have.

Paul de Sa, an industry analyst and a former senior FCC official, said those commitments indicate the companies are probably prepared.”Worst case, you might get some detrimental effects on quality of service at peak times,” he told CNN. “But basic work-from-home activities ā€” like sending larger document attachments, more emails and chats ā€” don’t add much time-sensitive traffic.”

How to ease congestion.

Here are a few things you can do to help ease the congestion and stress on your home internet system. Remember, the system can only carry so much data in either direction.

  1. Upgrade your modem or router. Call your service provider to verify you have the latest equipment. Sometimes you can get it updated for free. There also may be software/firmware upgrades the provider can do remotely to increase the equipment’s efficiency. If you installed your own router or modem, do the same thing. Check to see if there’s a more efficient, faster option available.
  2. Ration usage based on time. If you have kids and remote workers in the house, the strain will happen, most likely, during the weekday hours. Priority should be given to those working from home. A lot of people are losing their jobs right now, so if you’re lucky enough to remain employed during this crisis and work at home, those individuals should be given priority online. Kids can go outdoors – separated from other families or friends, of course – read books, play games, or whatever. A little time away from the screen won’t be a bad thing.
  3. Turn off unnecessary networked devices. If you have home automation or other devices that aren’t critical, shut them down. Even if they don’t directly use talk to the internet, this will reduce some of the strain on the router and speed it up slightly.
  4. Compress large files for transfer. Working at home means you need to send a lot of information back and forth. When you’re sending large documents, video and audio files, they can clog the pipeline. Try using compression software or file transfer systems like Dropbox and WeTransfer in order to reduce the size and send them faster.
  5. Be patient. We only have so much control over all of this and virtually none on our utilities. People are working to improve the grid and help ease the limitations of our home internet systems. But be patient. Alternate high-volume internet use throughout the day and try to maintain some calm amidst this crisis.

For more information or to get help determining how to improve your home or office internet service, call us for a video or phone conference. We can help most customers remotely, without a home or office visit. Call 937-902-4857 or email gdeer@gldenterprises.net.