The Internet is struggling under COVID 19 traffic

That band is not quite as broad as we thought:

In late January, as China locked down some provinces to contain the spread of the coronavirus, average internet speeds in the country slowed as people who were stuck inside went online more and clogged the networks. In Hubei Province, the epicenter of infections, mobile broadband speeds fell by more than half. In mid-February, when the virus hit Italy, Germany and Spain, internet speeds in those countries also began to deteriorate.

And last week, as a wave of stay-at-home orders rolled out across the United States, the average time it took to download videos, emails and documents increased as broadband speeds declined 4.9 percent from the previous week, according to Ookla, a broadband speed testing service. Median download speeds dropped 38 percent in San Jose, Calif., and 24 percent in New York, according to Broadband Now, a consumer broadband research site.

I am not a tech person (by any stretch of the imagination), so I won't preach too much about the types of activities that may be clogging the system. But I do know this: The gaming industry plays a pretty big role here. My son recently bought a used video game (physical disc), but before he could play it on his platform (physical console), he had to download some massive updates. We started it, went to dinner in a restaurant that was busy, and when we got home it was just finishing the downloads. Hello, 1992. Anyway, don't be surprised if the quality of videos on Netflix and Youtube seems to deteriorate:

To head off problems, European regulators like Mr. Breton have pushed streaming companies such as Netflix and YouTube to reduce the size of their video files so they don’t take up as much bandwidth. In the United States, regulators have given wireless carriers access to more spectrum to bolster the capacity of their networks.

Some tech companies have responded to the call to ease internet traffic. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said this week that it would reduce the quality of its videos from high to standard definition across the globe. Disney delayed the start of its Disney Plus streaming service in France by two weeks, and Microsoft’s Xbox asked gaming companies to introduce online updates and new releases only at certain times to prevent network congestion.

“We really don’t know how long we’re going to be in this mode for,” Dave Temkin, Netflix’s vice president of network and systems infrastructure, said in a webinar on Wednesday on how the coronavirus could affect internet infrastructure.

Cisco said demand for its WebEx teleconference service had tracked the spread of the coronavirus. Demand first surged in Asia, then in Europe, and last week it soared 240 percent in the United States. The demand has pushed up failure rates delivering video conferencing, said Sri Srinivasan, a Cisco senior vice president in charge of WebEx.

I've got a couple of these WebEx things coming up soon, so keep your fingers crossed. But I highly recommend that managers set up a backup plan, so you can switch quickly to a (telephone) audio conference call when your facetime gets wonky. Again, hello 1992.

Tags: