The coronavirus pandemic is causing internet service providers and cable companies to see a steep increase in the amount of data customers are consuming.
Louisiana households are downloading nearly 21% more data since March 1, on things such as streaming video. That’s according to the NCTA — The Internet & Television Association, which represents broadband and the pay television industry. At the same time, the group said the amount of information being sent from households has gone up by nearly 23%, showing an increase in video conferencing from home on platforms such as Zoom.
“We’ve seen an increase in total network traffic,” said David D’Aquin, a spokesman for Cox, which offers cable television in much of the state. “We’re seeing traffic shift to different nodes at different times. There’s more traffic in residential areas and less in business districts, and peak times have shifted from evening to throughout the day in residential areas.”
Home usage of the internet and video services may be up, but the picture for businesses is mixed at Eatel, said Tressy Leindecker, a spokeswoman for Eatel, which has nearly 60,000 customers from Livingston Parish to Grand Isle.
“There’s no precedent for this,” said Josh Descant, president of Eatel. Some of the customers in Lafourche Parish, which heavily depends on the offshore oil industry, could be facing a pinch between the shutdowns due to the coronavirus and plunging oil prices.
“We expect a rough road ahead there as well,” he said.
About half of Eatel’s business customers want to ramp up their business with the customer to make sure things are running smoothly with remote workers. But about half are looking to pare back their service.
“Those are mainly smaller and midsized businesses such as bars and restaurants that don’t need video right now,” Leindecker said. After all, if a bar or hotel is closed or a restaurant is just doing takeout and delivery service, there’s no need to pay for a cable TV package, especially when those businesses don’t know when they will be able to fully reopen.
The number of businesses looking to cut back on service has increased recently, she said. All of these companies are sticking with Eatel for phone and data services.
Because so many customers are at home working remotely, or due to the closure of their school or workplace, the data patterns now look like a traditional weekend, with traffic concentrated in residential areas and volumes holding steady throughout the day.
AT&T, which offers phone and U-Verse cable service, said last week its core network traffic, which includes its business, home broadband and wireless services, was up 24% from the month before.
“We have seen increases in traffic. For example, audio/video conferencing minutes of use have increased significantly from 6 million on an average day to 16 million one day last week,” said Kelly Layne Starling, a regional spokeswoman for AT&T.
Despite the increased traffic, Starling and other telecommunications officials said the networks are holding up well. Steps are being taken to add capacity, from making changes to the software that handles network fiber that runs to the home, to bringing in portable cell sites.
Harris Miller, executive vice president of technology and innovation for Eatel, said the company has seen data usage climb to rates 35% above historical norms over the past two or three weeks.
Miller said while residential traffic is higher than normal during the day, another spike in usage happens between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. because of all the people who are forced to stay in. “We think that’s when they start consuming content from Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services,” he said.
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