The internet is doing just fine, thanks.
You would be forgiven for thinking otherwise, given that so many people are now working from home and watching more online video in the face of increasingly stringent measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. The idea that volume could swamp the internet—and create a whole new problem for the world—is almost too much to bear. Fortunately, it is not a real issue.
But some people who should know better are throwing gasoline on the flames. On Wednesday, European Commissioner Thierry Breton, a former CEO of France Télécom, said in a tweet that due to a combination of teleworking and streaming, “infrastructures might be in strain.”
He even talked to
CEO Reed Hastings about it. In the tweet, Breton urged that to “secure internet access for all,” we should stream video content in standard definition, rather than high definition. He even started a hashtag—#SwitchToStandard.
So, with all due respect to Commissioner Breton, you can ignore him. Feel free to #StreamInHighDef.
At least in the U.S., there is zero evidence that shifting behavior in how and where people are using the internet is causing any systemic issues.
A spokesperson for
the largest U.S. internet service provider, said the company isn’t seeing any issues. “We are micro monitoring network usage and watching the load on the network nationally and locally,” the spokesperson said. “So far we have seen some shifts in usage patterns toward more daytime usage in areas that have moved to a work-from-home environment, but the overall peaks are still well within our network capability.”
Daytime usage patterns on Comcast networks right now look a lot like what the company typically sees during prime time—evening traffic levels are a little elevated, but hardly to a worrisome level.
In response to a query, the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement that it is actively monitoring internet activity, but that it isn’t seeing any issues.
“Chairman [Ajit] Pai wants to make sure that Americans stay connected during the coronavirus outbreak,” the FCC said. “Federal law gives network operators broad flexibility to manage their broadband networks, and the FCC has already been coordinating closely with network operators to ensure those networks remain up and running. We have been encouraged by the feedback we have received both regarding the ability of their networks to handle changes in usage patterns caused by the coronavirus outbreak and how networks are performing so far…. Additionally, the FCC has already granted temporary authority to three wireless companies to use additional spectrum in order to ensure that they are able to meet their customers’ needs.”
Longtime telecom analyst Craig Moffett, co-founder of research firm MoffettNathanson, says it doesn’t really make sense to think in terms of maxing out the internet.
“Running out of internet capacity isn’t like running out of respirators, or masks,” he says. “Network capacity varies enormously at each level of aggregation, from house, to neighborhood, to town, to city, and so on. And each second’s network capacity is independent of every other second’s; in fact, the whole notion of capacity is really only relevant at the moment of peak usage. So the idea that the country could somehow run out of capacity is simply nonsense.”
He adds that “bottlenecks could emerge at various points, and those bottlenecks could slow traffic to a given home (too many simultaneous users for the broadband plan the customer has signed up for), or to a given cluster of homes (too many homes using maximum bandwidth at the same time for the bandwidth provisioned to that service group, causing the connection to slow temporarily for all of them), or even for a whole town (especially if that town is relatively rural, and the ‘trunk’ connection from the town to the nearest internet access point has never been upgraded to fiber). Generally speaking, urban broadband networks will be fine. But some rural markets are still badly underserved.”
Moffett contends most internet service providers “will be able to handle the additional loads relatively easily.” And he adds that all will benefit from the fact that the bulk of the additional traffic is coming in the daytime, during traditional work hours. “Historically, peak utilization on residential broadband networks comes in the evening,” he says.
So you can stop worrying, and resume streaming—in HD.
Write to Eric J. Savitz at [email protected]
Website of source