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Everyone can help manage data transmission in a COVID-19 world | American Institute of Enterprise

As efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic have led millions of people to work from home, with students attending school remotely and the usual entertainment provided by sports, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas being denied to the public, it’s no surprise that the amount of data being moved over broadband networks has increased dramatically.

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Verizon reported a 22% increase in total data traffic between March 12 and March 19. Last Wednesday, he revealed that demand for streaming video data increased by 12 percent, web traffic by 20 percent, virtual private network traffic by 30 percent, and online gaming by a whopping 75 percent. Similar trends are reported in other countries. Quick to recognize changing usage patterns, US carriers and broadband providers have already suspended data caps on most services.

Are our networks up to scratch?

Nonetheless, questions arise as to whether networks can absorb the onslaught and continue to operate given the changing volume (and sources) of data generated. If not, what should be done to fix the problem?

Until now, network operators were confident that their systems would pull through. This is partly because much of the increase comes from usage outside of the traditional peak hours between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Usage peaks now also occur at other times of the day. The networks are also equipped to handle usage spikes above average peak levels to respond to special events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince observes that his analysis of the data found no “noticeable jitter, latency, or packet loss, which would indicate that the networks are overloaded.”

This does not mean that pressures can be exerted in certain specific places, due to particular restrictions in terms of equipment and software. But even here, network operators (and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)) come to the party. For example, AT&T deployed portable cell sites to increase first responder coverage in parts of Indiana, Connecticut, New Jersey, California and New York. And last week, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile won FCC approval to borrow unused wireless spectrum from satellite TV provider Dish to help boost their network capacity.

Can regulators help?

The resilience of US networks to date is a testament to the levels of investment carriers have made in their systems and the flexibility of institutional arrangements that have allowed the FCC and carriers to quickly address specific bottlenecks. Indeed, this may be a time when a regulatory story of not mandating the sharing of network elements turned out to be a boon.

Mandatory network sharing (as required by the EU) can avoid excessive building that is presumed unnecessary in normal times, but leaves networks exposed in exceptional circumstances. Regulatory interventions, such as requiring video streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, reduce data volumes by degrading the quality of streams are quickly becoming necessary – as seen in the European Union. Where “overbuilding” can be exploited by operators working together to keep essential services running without undue inconvenience to end users, these moves can be deferred or even avoided.

Households must also do their part

However, in these challenging times, it is important to recognize that not all disruptions to user experience with online applications can be blamed on network operators or resolved through regulatory intervention. As home use (and concurrent use in particular) increases and multiple family members use high-bandwidth applications together, data transmission hangs resulting in slow page loads and grabbing streams video can frequently occur within the operation of home network equipment. The villain may be the home Wi-Fi network.

Two factors can influence household Wi-Fi performance.

First, the quality of service decreases rapidly the farther the end device is from the modem. As members of a household carve out new territories for working in newly crowded spaces, some users will inevitably work farther from the modem than is optimal for the applications they use. Locating the most data-intensive users (or the most important application users) closer to the modem can dramatically improve the application experience (or worker productivity). Wi-Fi extenders can also be useful for increasing range in physically large premises.

Second, the Wi-Fi network itself can become overloaded when family members are simultaneously watching 4K streams, playing online games, participating in video conferences, and working remotely online. The solution is to move the use of the most data-intensive applications entirely off the Wi-Fi network, by physically connecting the affected devices directly to the modem using Ethernet connections. Hooking up the smart TV and an online game console to the modem might be enough to free up the Wi-Fi for that important video conference or cloud-based operation happening in the home office.

In these unusual times, we are all being asked to do some things differently. When it comes to home internet services, getting our own homes in order before resorting to regulatory or operator calls for intervention can go a long way towards a smoother online experience during the crisis. of COVID-19.