NCTA — The Internet & Television Association

What to Know About COVID-19 and the Internet Experience

What to Know About COVID-19 and the Internet Experience

COVID-19 Internet Experience

We have all found ourselves faced with a mountain of uncertainties due to COVID-19. One thing we can do in these unprecedented times is clear any confusion and calm fears wherever possible. Many offices now find themselves working from home for the foreseeable future, and for many it’s their first time, leading some to wonder if the shift will impact their internet connection. And to be clear, networks are expected to be fine. But let’s take the time to discuss some new challenges that may pop up as our workforce rapidly shifts out of the office, and what steps users can take to reduce any potential hiccups.

First, engineers are confident in the network capacity. Nevertheless, they are keeping a close eye on performance with a variety of tools.  One tool, the RIPE Atlas, has over 8,000 probes at the edges of the internet running tests 24/7 to measure end-to-end connectivity and performance. As we all know, it is better to be over prepared than under prepared, and teams of engineers are standing by should something change.

Next, video on demand services (be it streaming via an app or cable’s on-demand features) likely won’t cause as much congestion as one might think. Yes, video streaming is a bandwidth intensive activity, however many VOD services store data locally within a region which reduces the strain on the internet backbone and lets streaming video run smoothly.

But many find themselves at home with family members who also might be using data intensive applications. If things seem to slow down, it could be time to do some home network management. Make sure your router is placed correctly, use a hard wire connection if you can on certain devices, and remember that applications give users control over things like video quality, so the kids can watch cartoons in SD (standard-definition TV) and that video conference might go more smoothly. Beyond that, increasing the number of access points in your home is another way to ensure your home network runs smoothly with increased demand. The age of your network equipment also can make a difference, in general the newer the better. Newer routers and access points have better antennas and management software, meaning reduced congestion, be sure to check with your ISP since some offer their own access points and extenders.

Even then, applications themselves can become overwhelmed. Video conferencing platforms and cloud services are no doubt seeing a massive jump in usage in a very short amount of time and could experience service interruptions as they scale up to meet this new demand.

And just like other crises, be vigilant for increased security risks. Panic is primetime for scammers looking to take advantage of worried people, so expect phishing scams and other cyber threats. VPNs are more important than ever with so many now teleworking, but that also makes them targets. Last Friday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about increased cyberthreats around VPNs, reminding Americans to stay on top of security updates in order to patch potential vulnerabilities.

While the COVID-19 situation continues to develop across the United States and around the globe, rest assured that America’s broadband leaders are working tirelessly to make the internet experience as seamless as possible.