Broadband Speeds Dip In Major Cities Due To Covid-19

from the heavy-load dept

Generally speaking, experts believe the U.S. internet should hold up pretty well under the significant new strain created by COVID-19. Italy and China's networks have generally weathered the added load, and most major U.S. ISPs say congestion shouldn't be a problem. Streaming providers have been reducing their overall bandwidth consumption as a precautionary measure, though generally many providers say they've seen greater impact from events like the Superbowl.

That's not to say there won't be a few hiccups. A new report by broadband availability tracking firm BroadbandNow indicates that a number of cities are seeing slowdowns under the weight of millions of additional telecommuters and videoconferencing students. That said, most cities aren't seeing any sort of devastating slowdowns as of yet:

"Eighty eight (44%) of the 200 cities we analyzed have experienced some degree of network degradation over the past week compared to the 10 weeks prior. However, only 27 (13.5%) cities are experiencing dips of 20% below range or greater."

The real problem, of course, is that many U.S. consumers don't have particularly great broadband speeds to begin with, especially on the upstream side. In many areas the best users can get is crappy DSL from an apathetic, government-pampered telco that has neglected upgrades and repairs for years. It's not surprising that many of these connections, which often have upstream speeds as slow as 1-3 Mbps (and don't even meet the FCC's standard broadband definition of 25 Mbps) are struggling under the load:

"It is important to note that though speeds may be holding relatively steady across the nation, many areas do not have robust connections to begin with. For instance, though Anchorage, Alaska is holding within range, its median download speed of 17.77 Mbps is well below the FCC’s current definition of broadband, which is 25 Mbps. The state itself currently ranks 51st in our list of best and worst states for internet coverage, pricing, and speeds."

The other obvious problem highlighted by COVID-19 is a lack of access in general.

One recent study estimated that 42 million Americans lack access to broadband of any kind, nearly double FCC estimates. And with broadband now effectively an essential utility for those under lockdown, the fact that tens of millions more Americans often can't afford service is also likely to cause problems. This digital divide, which receives ample lip service from regulators and politicians but little in the way of substantive action, is more glaring than ever now that broadband has become an essential lifeline for home bound Americans trying to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Filed Under: broadband, competition, congestion, covid-19, fcc


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 7:43am

    I’m glad I upgraded to gigabit at the beginning of the year.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 9:23am

    <sarc> </sarc>

    Forgot your sarcasm tags?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2020 @ 3:42pm

    It's not surprising that many of these connections, which often have upstream speeds as slow as 1-3 Mbps (and don't even meet the FCC's standard broadband definition of 25 Mbps) are struggling under the load

    It is, actually, because I'm aware of no evidence to support the idea that slow connections would see larger effects from congestion. The linked analysis doesn't really support it: most of the large slowdowns are in cities with relatively high average speeds; and the connections below 5-10 Mbps aren't broken down into a separate class, so we can't determine the specific effect on them.

    It's rare for DSL circuits to be negatively affected by general congestion. These are independent shitty circuits leading to a building with fast backbone connections. Bad DSL connections shouldn't be affected any more than good DSL connections terminating at the same office. If the backbone clogs, it affects everyone.

    (Good DSL connections, like VDSL2, do have some crosstalk between subscriber pairs that can limit speeds if not corrected—if only American telcos were actually deploying new technology.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Federico (profile), 1 Apr 2020 @ 11:21pm

    ISPs hit reality

    Meanwhile TIM/Telecom Italia, the Italian incumbent, was forced to resume peering at the main Italian internet exchange, the MIX.
    https://twitter.com/MIX_exchange/status/1245028914029879297

    At least they correct their mistakes. I assume Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom are still busy blaming Netflix and YouTube for whatever capacity problems they have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 2 Apr 2020 @ 5:56am

    Wait, what was that quote from a couple of articles back?

    "Traffic is up 75 percent or more on many US networks, but they are still performing. [...] We should thank our lucky stars that Title II net neutrality regulations were repealed by the FCC in 2017. In doing so, the US avoided the fate of much of Europe today, where broadband networks are strained and suffering from a lack of investment and innovation."
    -- Roslyn Layton, American Enterprise Institute

    *laughs in European*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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