More people are using the internet at home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. New research shows just exactly how those people are using their internet at home, and how fiber remains as one of the most reliable forms of connectivity.
According to a newly released report from RVA, LLC and the Fiber Broadband Association, users have found the internet is crucial to weathering the pandemic. Video conferencing has surged 46% among survey respondents since COVID-19 hit, and nearly half of those surveyed said they’re using it for educational or work purposes.
Mike Render, CEO and principal analyst at RVA, LLC, joined Diego Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of Lumos Networks and Monica Webb, head of market development and strategic partnerships of Ting Internet, to discuss the findings and how internet usage is changing amid a global pandemic during FBA’s Fiber for Breakfast live video series.
“Really, can we imagine trying to be sheltered in place without internet and broadband?” Render said. “People have responded, and said they feel like the internet is really important in their lives right now.”
According to the study, those without high-speed and reliable internet are forced to ration their time spent online depending on how many devices are currently in their home. For people with even moderate download and upload speeds, they’re losing about six hours a week of productivity. That number doubles for those with the lowest speeds.
In rural settings, this is a continuing issue. Even those in dense urban settings are being forced to ration their internet usage to improve their speeds. Render said this is the “urban digital divide,” where stronger internet services are available, but people are unaware of exactly what their options might be.
“Good internet is available, but [city dwellers] are not taking up the service,” Render said. “It’s not understanding costs, it’s not having the experience, it’s being concerned about security—and we need to work on that. Imagine being stuck in a flat in New York City without internet.”
Part of closing that divide is education, for both the end user and lawmakers with the power to increase fiber funding. Render said during our post-COVID reality, there are going to be some lasting effects. People will continue to work and learn from home, and reliable internet is key. Another trend coming out of the pandemic will be the increased demand for fiber, and Render expects providers will begin expanding at a quicker pace.
For network providers, the pandemic has proven something they’ve always known to be true: strong fiber networks can withstand increased internet usage. Anderson, the senior vice president and general manager of Lumos Networks, said that while they’ve seen significant increase in usage, their networks continue to thrive.
Overall, the company has seen a 32% increase in its traffic, with a majority of that traffic occurring during normal working hours. But the company was more than able to accommodate.
“We didn’t see any breakage of the network,” Anderson said. “I can say that having fiber was an advantage, because we had the resiliency and the flexibility to move customers and run the network accordingly. From that standpoint, the network is handling it very well.”
Webb, head of marketing development and strategic partnerships at Ting, said they’re having a similar experience. The increased usage has had no material impact on the network, and the company has even been working to provide internet sources for non-customers in the communities they serve.
Ting has installed fiber-fed wifi hotspots in public areas for people to use. Webb said one inspiring story she heard was of a nursing student in Sandpoint, Idaho who used the wifi to complete her degree while her university was closed.
“We’re in a position to provide meaningful assistance to our communities,” she said.
That’s not to say the pandemic hasn’t offered some lasting lessons learned for fiber providers, though. Both Anderson and Webb said their companies plan on instituting some policies—like contactless installation—even after the pandemic passes.
“As we go into what is going to be the new normal, there are some advantages on how we can take the things we’ve learned and use them to run our organizations more effectively,” Anderson said.
Join us for our next Fiber for Breakfast live video series on May 13 at 9 a.m. ET. The topic: Post COVID-19: The Future of Work.