With a large portion of the workforce shifting to work-from-home schedules, the area’s internet providers have promised to speed up service to keep up with demand.
Local providers Cox, AT&T and EATEL have all promised not to disconnect any residential or small business service for nonpayment for 60 days, due to the coronavirus.
But with thousands connecting to their home networks outside normal peak hours, the question becomes: Can the system keep up, or will it be like a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium?
The New York Times reports this week that these last-mile services, the cable broadband and fiber-based broadband services that deliver internet directly into homes, are what could challenge internet providers.
Whereas offices are set up with much larger broadband services, residential services typically have a lower capacity. Pair that with temperamental routers accessed by multiple people for streaming, games and video calls—slowdowns are to be expected.
EATEL is reporting an uptick in upstream traffic (in-house usage, video conferencing, phone calls, uploading documents) of about 10% this week, compared with a 15% rise in download traffic (video streaming), says Harris Miller, executive vice president of technology and innovation.
There are so many factors that could lead to a slowed internet speed at home, whether it’s the home Wi-Fi network congestion or congestion on the other side with schools’ new distance-learning websites, says Tressy Leindecker, vice president of sales and marketing for EATEL
Yet EATEL’s fiber network has overprovisioned itself for just such an event, President Josh Descant says. That fiber network extends down to the last mile, which allows the company to utilize emergency circuits or a “break the glass” backup plan to increase capacity remotely, without dispatching a serviceperson.
“Thanks to a lot of infrastructure upgrades in Baton Rouge over the last few years, we had the opportunity to purchase more capacity for emergencies like this,” Miller says, adding that new capacity was put in place just last week.
Cox announced last week it is upgrading most of its residential packages, increasing speeds from 30 to 50 megabits per second for the next 60 days.
David D’Aquin, Cox public affairs manager, says the company’s national fiber network is already built up to handle the increased capacity.
D’Aquin says in an email statement that the company has been monitoring performance in terms of capacity.
AT&T says all of its home internet customers now have access to unlimited data, suspending broadband usage caps and fees.
AT&T public relations manager Ann L. Elsas says in an email that the company is monitoring bandwidth usage to manage the networks, using redundant systems to address any faults.
“Wireless voice and data traffic changes daily, so we have an extensive program to keep our network’s capacity flexible to deal with normal bandwidth projections,” Elsas says.
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