Greene Countians are increasingly working or spending more time at home as local and state officials urge people to restrict their movements to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus.
With those changes, two of the largest internet service providers locally have reported that usage patterns are reflecting the numbers working from home or participating in online schooling among their customer bases.
According to Comcast, it has seen both usage spikes and shifts in peak times with a 32% increase in traffic at peak times with upload peaks shifting to daytime hours.
“We engineer the network to handle spikes and shifts in usage, and what we have seen so far with COVID-19 is within our capacity,” said Tony Werner, Comcast president of technology, product and Xperience. The company states its network is designed to meet projected demands 12 to 18 months in the future, which has helped it be well prepared for the increase in usage.
CenturyLink is seeing similar increases. The company has experienced a 35% growth in internet traffic and an increase in voice traffic due to increased use of voice and collaboration tools.
“We expected an increase in internet traffic and were prepared,” said Andrew Dugan, CenturyLink’s chief technology officer. “We are staying ahead of this growth because our network was designed to quickly scale up and down, allowing us to adjust traffic and make changes based on our customers’ fluctuating needs.”
As families are simultaneously using their internet service for work, learning and entertainment, CenturyLink recommends that individuals reduce non-essential applications and limit multiple gaming and video-streaming sessions during daytime hours to allow work and learning tools to run at optimized speeds.
The location of the WiFi router can impact service speeds, and the company recommends it be placed in the area of the home where wireless connectivity will be used most.
In addition to an increase in peak traffic, Comcast reports it has seen a shift in peak download times from 9 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in a comparison between March and February usage.
Application usage growth has increased significantly as well, the company reports, with video conferencing and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) use increasing by 212% over the past month, and traffic of those using VPN networks up 40%.
Comcast has also experienced “significant demand” from families and students for its Internet Essentials program, and it also working with school districts and other partners to connect households that do not currently have internet in the home, the company reports.
At the beginning of the outbreak, Comcast announced it would provide 60 days of the Internet Essentials program free to qualifying low income families and has also offered free access to WiFi hotspots in its service area. There are more than 100 free Wifi hotspots provided by Comcast in Greene County. Location and directions to the hotspots can be accessed at wifi.xfinity.com.
On its mobile telephone service, Comcast has experienced a 10% decline in wireless data usage but saw a 24% increase in mobile data usage over WiFi, according to the company.
Use of the traditional home telephone is also going up in the outbreak, with Comcast reporting an increase of 65% in use of its digital voice minutes.
As it adjusts to new loads and usage patterns, CenturyLink is also working closely with service-providing customers to confirm their bandwidth-intensive applications and platforms keep up with the increased workload so they can continue to provide critical services to their customers. according to the company.
CenturyLink reports that much of its increase in internet usage can be attributed to gaming and video.
Similarly, Comcast reports that gaming downloads have increased by 50% generally and 80% for new releases in looking at March statistics compared to previous months this year. The company also reports a 38% increase in streaming and web video consumption.
Television viewing has gone up since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Comcast officials report.
Video consumption has increased by four hours to 64 hours per week, and the cable company’s Video OnDemand service is hitting record high usages, up 25% when compared to this time last year.
Queries on the Xfinity Voice Remote service have topped 50 million on some days since the outbreak began, according to the company, and there has been a nearly 50% increase in requests on the service for “free movies.”