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Internet Overload? Service Providers say Infrastructures Can Handle Increased Usage Due to COVID-19

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Students are taking online classes, many are working from home, and a lot of free time is spent indoors in front of the television. During this time of social distancing our internet is more important than ever.

Major service providers Mediacom and CenturyLink said there’s an influx of traffic across their networks, but while they could’ve never predicted something like this COVID-19 pandemic, their infrastructures we’re prepared to see this kind of usage.

“This is unprecedented. I don’t think we can ever point to a time in history where we’ve ever seen this many people working from home. As a result the need, the demand for bandwidth consumption is huge,” Guy Gunther, a CenturyLink consumer fiber strategist said.

CenturyLink said customers should be prepared to see a 15-40 percent data usage bump throughout this period of social distancing, which can lead to slower connection times, dropped video calls and lagging download speeds.

“We’re seeing more people logging on at one time within the home, so of course that will consume a lot of bandwidth,” Gunther said. “Then you aggregate all those homes within a neighborhood, that’s where we are seeing that bump. Again, as that rolls up, we’re not seeing any issues at all.”

So if you are seeing issues at home, they are offering some advice to optimize internet speeds:

1.Distance between your router and the device. CenturyLink said less than 200 feet is best, even better is plugging directly into the modem. If you can’t do either of those, consider a wifi extender.

2. Physical barriers. They said things like a concrete wall or refrigerator can affect the connection.

3. Increase Bandwidth. Both Mediacom and CenturyLink said the demand is high to increase internet speeds. Mediacom said businesses are generally recommending at least 50 mbps speed for their virtual private network (VPN) connections.

4. Consider Eliminating Number of Devices Connected. This can free up bandwidth for computers you are trying to use for work and school.

“Their security cameras, their Nest. They are streaming a lot of video during the day to keep an eye on everything going on in the home, the pets, the backdoor, whatever,” Phyllis Peters, Mediacom’s Communications Director said. “But if you stop and think about these patterns of what we do, we’re now at home. Maybe we can disconnect some of those devices that we would use from the office to keep the eye on the home. You can look around and change what’s connected and what you are using for patterns of internet usage at home, but even with that we are really keeping pace with demand.”

Mediacom is also seeing a change in its peak internet usage times. Peters said peak usage used to be at night between the hours of 7-11 p.m.

“Now with everyone working from home, learning from home, doing everything from home, that peak time rather than being during the evening has been stretched out throughout the day. So in some ways it’s flattened the curve, a term we’re hearing in public health these days. It’s changed when people are using the internet,” Peters said.

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