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A lot of people are being asked to work from home. School districts have closed in a lot of the United States with the expectation that students can be taught online. With more people staying at home, online entertainment is going to be even more popular.
Just how many people could possibly work from home if they had to?
According to Fortune, around 29% of American workers could do their job from home. This factors out to be around 42 million workers. As Covid-19 spreads, more companies are asking employees to stay at home.
In the UK, there are already concerns about the internet being overwhelmed due to people working from home. The UK is known to have some of the slowest bandwidth speeds in Europe.
Universities and schools have canceled classes and switched to online education for at least a semester in many areas.
Elementary and school-age children are going to be educated online as well.
Virtual classrooms may also require substantial bandwidth for videos as well as some real-time conferencing and interaction.
Lag times and outages would make it really frustrating to learn online. Students in rural areas with lower connection speeds could have some difficulty continuing their studies.
Home internet connections will experience a lot more usage if 1-2 adults are working from home and a kid or two is using the connection for distance education.
Do we need to be concerned about the internet dropping, going out, or lagging during the pandemic?
While there is reason to be concerned, the truth is that a lot of internet providers have plans in place and are offering some great support for their customers.
Regional limitations may come into play if a system gets too overloaded. There is only so much bandwidth available for any given area. If your area has a lot of capability then you may not experience any trouble at all.
I live in a rural area and know that our connection is regularly affected when people are at home more on weekends or during inclement weather.
Of course, there is the issue of boredom and mental health during quarantine.
The internet is a very addictive part of modern life. It has replaced cable television and even phones to a large degree. If people are at home they are going to be using the internet for even more communications and entertainment.
Gaming and video streaming can take up a lot of bandwidth. Consider that a single video game purchase may require downloading 20G. On the plus side, downloading a video game once can allow for many hours of gameplay. Online gaming, on the other hand, can take up a lot of your connection. High definition video takes up a lot more of your connection than standard definition.
Educational institutions typically have more bandwidth and higher data transfer rates.
When you live on campus you have access to high-speed internet and a system that is maintained by the institution on some level. Even back when I was in college in the early 2000s, colleges had higher-level connections.
Students that continue to live on campus may still have access to these speeds and networks but if they choose to go home or dormitories are shut down, they will not, and this will put further stress on the networks that are where the students move back to.
Stock trading is very dependent on fast internet transactions. Some trading sites have already experienced problems.
Whoever gets trades in the fastest can have an advantage so when those decisions cannot be completed fast, the slower trader might lose out. For many of us, stock trading is not a major concern but it is worth noting that any internet connection issues could have an impact on those that do trade regularly.
Solutions For All Of Us
Due to Covid-19, some internet providers are offering relief by doing away with data caps and overage fees and increasing download and upload speeds on some plans.
AT&T has removed the data caps for customers that do not have unlimited internet data plans. This is a great thing because the fees were as high as $10 for every 50G of data a customer went over their plan limit.
Comcast recently raised the data speeds of low-income users that are on the Internet Essentials plan. This increase means customers that were once limited to 15 Mbps download speeds now have access to speeds of 25 Mbps.
Verizon is making an effort to look over their networks and make sure that they are as prepared as possible for an increase in usage. They have stated that they have multiple layers of redundancy built in to help ensure that the network is up to the task. Company spokespersons say they have definitely noted an uptick in usage since Covid-19 appeared in the USA.
NBC News announced that internet companies have agreed to not disconnect service for non-payment for 60 days. In addition, they will not charge late fees for those that need some extra time to pay.
Charter Communications has committed to offers free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who do not already have a broadband subscription.
Of course, you can always talk to your internet provider about concerns and see what programs are available. While the FCC is coordinating programs to help people, it couldn’t hurt to check out your provider’s webpage to see what they are offering. Some providers are offering more than what the FCC is asking and you might be able to get more help than you realize.
Check your internet plan and consider upgrading your connection.
Even if your area has plenty of bandwidth, the connection you are paying for at home may not be up to the task of the increased usage if you are sheltering in place due to Covid-19. Check with your internet provider and see if they offer a faster connection. It might be money well spent and cost less than what you think to upgrade your service.
Tune-up your computer with anti-spyware, malware, and virus software.
There are a lot of programs that can suck up a lot of bandwidth. During regular times this may not be as noticeable but with increased usage, they might cause lags or drops. When was the last time you ran a spyware program or anti-virus on your computer? Spy Bot is free and has always worked well for me. Kaspersky offers a good anti virus and anti-spyware package for multiple devices.
Set your computer to download updates at night when there is less demand for bandwidth.
A lot of us have automatic updates turned on our computers. While one computer updating might not be noticeable, multiple computers might take up a big chunk of connection speed.
Consider downloading movies at night to watch later.
Some places that rent movies online will allow you to download the movie or shows you rented and then watch later. This can be helpful, especially if people within the home like to watch different things.
Turn down the quality when watching Youtube videos.
You can alter the quality of the video on Youtube and that can help a lot. I have had to do this a lot living out in the country.
When you rent a movie or buy a copy, consider getting the standard definition version rather than high definition.
Last time I checked you could also save some money by going with standard definition. If you are like me and watch a lot of older movies and television shows, there is really no need for HD anyway.
Stagger your usage if needed. Maybe everyone doesn’t need to watch a different movie or do their work at the same time?
If the internet is slow or limited, people may have to watch some shows and movies together or play some games that are multiplayer. If there is a choice about work or school work times then those could be completed at different times.
Use separate cell phone internet for some things rather than your home connection.
Most people that have a cell phone have a data plan or the ability to have one. Using your cell phone for chatting and checking email can help take the strain off your home connection when others are using it.
I use the Virgin Mobile network for cell service. They recently changed over to Boost Mobile. I recently learned that their $20 phone plan includes some high-speed data and unlimited 2G. I am pointing them out for those that want an inexpensive option via a pay as you go plan.
Remember that sometimes it is not your connection speed that is the problem.
I have found myself blaming my connection speed only to find out it was a problem with my computer. Wireless cards sometimes fail. During a stressful time, it is easy to make assumptions and spend your time trying to fix the wrong thing.
Have some backup entertainment options in case of a more extended outage.
Your connection may never go out for very long or even drop a lot. I hope it doesn’t. At the same time, things happen. A storm could knock out the power or you may have a home network or computer issues that mean you have to be offline for a while.
I recommend just having some things downloaded and saved on SD cards or loading an e-reader with some books. There are a lot of things that you can do to ensure that you have some entertainment if you lose internet access during a time when you are stuck at home.