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What COVID-19 teaches us about broadband infrastructure

Jun. 03, 2020 Business Insights

Learn how the increased pressure on internet infrastructure is accelerating change in the United States

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the world, many of our in-person business operations, educational activities and social functions have shifted into the digital space.

With millions more people working from home, children and students taking classes remotely, and many of us turning to streaming services for entertainment, the significant increase in internet usage is putting more pressure on America’s broadband infrastructure than ever before.

What’s changed?

The unprecedented surge in online traffic has the potential to threaten the quality and speed of content availability. It’s also left many of us wondering whether our broadband infrastructure will be able to support the “new normal”.

While many have argued that millions of Americans are ordinarily paying for more bandwidth than they need, right now things are very different. In fact, the entire US internet infrastructure may be deemed insufficient in times of crisis.

Why upgrades are necessary

One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us is that internet service providers (ISPs) need to commit to constant innovation. This won’t happen overnight, so we must remind ourselves to show patience during this time while our local networks are taxed.

The FCC is closely monitoring the situation and collecting data to know how the nation’s networks perform during this crisis. Over 800 companies and organizations have signed their Keep Americans Connected Pledge, in an effort to ensure Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances.

Over the past few years, ISPs including Google Fiber, AT&T and CenturyLink have led the way in large-scale fiber upgrades that offer customers super fast internet up to 1,000 Mbps. Other cable companies have since begun the deployment of their own high-speed internet services.

As well as widespread access to faster internet, ISPs should also be focusing on building networks for peaks, not averages. While a significant capacity would be unused much of the time, this extra bandwidth will avoid bottlenecks at peak times—and at times of extraordinary demand.

What does the future look like?

It’s only after this crisis is over that we’ll truly understand what worked and what didn’t work. One thing’s for certain: the data that emerges from the pandemic will help us design better systems for the future.

These new systems encompass not only internet infrastructure, but also business operations, education, and much more besides. We for one are excited to see the major improvements on the horizon that will help build a future that’s more connected, and more online than ever before.

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