Broadband in the Time of Coronavirus

Across the globe countries, cities and states are closing down access to public spaces including libraries, schools, universities, etc.  While many employers are asking their employees to work from home until further notice.

This sudden surge in teleworking and remote education will be an interesting litmus test on the state of the broadband infrastructure.   Will it be sufficient to support the 24/7 demand for high bandwidth?  How will latency and contention potentially affect online learning?

In general, the network is well balanced.  Teleworkers use the networks during the normal working part of the day then hand it over in the evening for users to enjoy streaming, gaming, etc.  In this new paradigm. the network is working at full throttle all the time as the number of users has suddenly surged.

But the other more important concern becomes lack of access.  While many of these students may enjoy high-speed broadband (and even super-high speed access) from schools and other public computer centers, not everyone has the same access from home.

If you live in an unserved or underserved community it may be almost impossible to have an acceptable learning experience.

And with more and more people in a telework environment – the need for better broadband becomes even more exposed – as does the digital divide.  Additionally, bandwidth usage caps may also pose a bigger issue to students (in particular) as they send and receive large files.  While services such as Dropbox and University specific systems may mitigate some of these issues – the sheer volume of traffic on the public broadband networks is expected to reach unprecedented levels.

And lets face another fact.  Teleworking and Remote School require robust FIXED broadband.  A mobile broadband connection simply will not provide the quality connectivity necessary for these applications.

Unfortunately, the time to be prepared for the current broadband crisis is long past – as networks simply cannot be built overnight.  However, this should be a wake up call for communities, cities, states and governments to realize the value of having high-quality, high-speed broadband across ALL communities – not just the chosen few.