The Internet usage is up by 50% in some parts of the world as more aspects of our daily lives have moved online. From school physical education classes to doctor’s appointments, millions of us are now connecting to the Internet from our kitchens, living rooms and home offices every day, causing some Internet service (ISP)s to see demand skyrocket.
The majority of people now logging on from home are the same people no longer doing so from the office. Vodafone may be experiencing an uptick in demand of 50%, but there aren’t suddenly 50% more people trying to access the Internet. That’s why some ISPs and tech firms are confidently saying there is plenty of capacity in the network.
The problem isn’t the lack of capacity, but the fact it can be overwhelmed by a sudden spike in demand. Mobile internet services are often the most affected by a rush of people online. The European Commission has taken the unprecedented step of asking everyone to help.
“Streaming platforms, telecom operators and users, we all have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internet during the battle against the virus propagation,” the Commission’s Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, believes.
To that end, Netflix will reduce the quality of its streaming movies and TV series to reduce the load on European networks by around 25%. Other ISPs have said they will add more capacity where needed. Vodafone, for example, is offering additional network capacity and services to hospitals and doctors in the UK. And in the U.S., Comcast opened its network of Wi-Fi hotspots to make them free for customers and non-customers alike. It’s also scrapping data caps and taking a relaxed view of late payment of bills.
Generally, the increase in remote work may create new opportunities for hackers to infiltrate corporate networks, especially since the growing number of remote connections will make it harder for companies to detect those intrusions when they occur. And organizations that do not have remote work processes in place may find themselves rushing to adapt and failing to take important security precautions to protect the confidentiality of their remote interactions.
Unfortunately, improving the quality and availability of broadband isn’t something that can be done overnight. In the long term, in order for working from home to be a viable emergency response to situations like these, we will need to invest more heavily in residential broadband than we previously thought necessary.
In the short term, we need to rethink how technology can best be used to support remote work and education efforts. This could mean relying less on the potential of video conferencing technologies to recreate in-person classrooms and meetings, and instead exploring how lower-bandwidth, asynchronous technologies – such as message boards, emails and recorded lectures – can be used more effectively. The future of working from home may be more low-tech than we ever imagined.