Sunday, July 26, 2020

COVID-19 Period Surging Traffic Is Slowing Down Your Internet

In January 2020, before the novel coronavirus spread its way around the world, China locked down several provinces to contain the virus. While people were forced to self-quarantine, naturally, much of their time was spent browsing the web. Average internet speeds in the country slowed as a surge of users logged online.

By mid-February, when COVID-19 was running rampant throughout European cities in Italy, Germany, and Spain, internet speeds in these countries also began to worsen. As a slew of stay-at-home orders spread across the US, broadband speeds declined. Quarantines worldwide have made people more reliant on the internet to work, communicate, study, and keep entertained.

Stress on Internet Infrastructure

YouTube, Zoom, Netflix, Facebook, and video gaming have risen to new heights globally, especially in Europe and the US. What does this mean for your internet speed? Will the new 'normal' slower internet have any effect on security?

European countries asked major streaming services, like Netflix, to degrade their services to keep up with the wave of new users. In India, Australia, and Latin America, Netflix switched its high-definition video streams to a slightly lower quality to reduce traffic. YouTube committed to making all global streams standard definition.

The US, however, decided to take another approach. The Federal Communications Commission granted Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile temporary access to more airwaves to try and support the slew of internet browsers. 

Internet Providers, We're Not Prepared

Major service providers like Comcast, Vodafone, Verizon, and Telefónica have been working on improving their security, internet speeds, and building up their networks for years. While they did predict an increase in internet users, no one could have imagined such a steep, sudden rush of users. The increasing demand came as a surprise. Enrique Blanco, the CTO of Telefónica, a Spanish telecommunications company, said, "In just two days we grew all the traffic we had planned for 2020."

Online gaming, video conferencing, and video calls have more than doubled since the start of the pandemic, while messages over WhatsApp, the free messaging platform owned by Facebook, more than quadrupled. All this extra traffic has slowed down internet networks, web pages, and apps.

Is There a Solution?

With most of the globe prepping for the "second wave" of COVID-19, many cities and states will likely reimplement shelter in place orders. More people are expected to be home, with not much to do other than using the internet for work and entertainment. Meaning, we can expect to see a lot more activity on a network.

By the looks of it, until we have a cure for COVID-19, we may have to put up with slower internet speeds for the foreseeable future. Internet traffic hasn't been slowing down, and the demand is on the steady incline. While internet providers are doing all they can to ensure their users have access to all of their videos, apps, games, and messenger services, there really isn't a whole lot they can do to speed up the internet.

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