Many non-essential employees have started working from home to curtail the spread of Coronavirus. Additionally, the schools that closed have shifted to live streaming classes online. This shift in learning and working remotely has substantially increased the amount of internet traffic. As millions of furloughed employees are entertaining themselves online, they are causing unprecedented network congestion during normal work hours. One European broadband provider has reported an increase in internet traffic of 35-60% during a normal workday. Peak traffic times are exponentially higher going from 5 Tb/s (during a normal weekday) to 17.5 Tb/s at the highest spike in traffic since people have begun social distancing.
In response to the demand for data, Facebook has pledged to throttle the quality of its videos to standard streaming in Europe for 30 days. The company joins Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon. The hope is that lowering bit rates will reduce bandwidth demand in response to COVID-19. Streaming video can account for over 60% of the data transmitted from internet providers to customers. These changes may not support the growing demand as more people self-isolate. “We’ll have a close eye on things and make changes if we need to,” one provider said. It will be interesting to see how Europe fares during the next month. Will these major companies throttling down their services be enough to support the network, or will further changes in infrastructure need to be made to support the rapidly growing demand for data?