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COVID-19 and the Internet: Real life Impacts

Posted on Aug 7, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge shakeup for the internet. Many people have had to change their internet habits in order to avoid contracting or spreading the virus, and many more people are suffering from fiber cuts due to lack of resources or insufficient infrastructure. We wanted to find out how the internet is performing with these changes by investigating two key metrics: traffic volume served and download speeds at our servers.

How COVID-19 is affecting internet performance

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused great turmoil on the internet as people stay home. To understand how this is affecting traffic, we looked at two key metrics during February and March in some of the countries that were hit hardest by it: changes in traffic volume served to those regions as a reflection for change in use; and download speeds measured at our servers which reflect quality. In almost all instances, an increase was seen immediately after public policy announcements like school closures or work orders – signalling just what’s going with your social media streams.

Internet performance around the world

The graphs show the volume of traffic in each region and download speed. The number of reported cases is also plotted to see how pandemic severity affects overall performance. In some regions, not only did traffic decrease after public policies were enacted but the graph shows increased availability!

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The effects of COVID-19 vary greatly from state to state, but the four states we analyzed were hit hard during March. New York and New Jersey are two different regions that people in these areas live or work within so they have been combined into one for this analysis due to fluid travel between them. California is home to many who fled westward during COVID-19 with Michigan being a long distance away on its eastern coast line.

New York and New Jersey

The impact of the school closings on traffic and internet use was minimal for most New Yorkers. Traffic increased by 18.5% following March 16, with a parallel decrease in download speed of 7.2%. The shelter-in-place policies triggered similar changes in traffic and download speeds to those seen before; however, it is likely these were not as pronounced due to decreased reliance on Wi-Fi connections at home during this time period because people had already shifted their usage there after schools closed earlier that week – which saw an increase in both downloads (44%) and uploads (11%).


california internet stats

Californians are moving to the state in droves, and with more people online their internet usage is increasing. The infrastructure has seen a spike of 46% but download speed increased by 1%.

The closure of Bay Area schools on March 16 triggered a 9.8% reduction in download speed, but the statewide closures ended up not causing any noticeable change to performance by the end of that month. The two events resulted in corresponding increases in traffic: 11.4% for those who lost access after school closed down and 4.3%, which was noticed when all state districts were shuttered just days later due to budget concerns from various funding sources across California’s education system

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The traffic load in Michigan increased by a staggering 37.9% during the month of March, but with school closures and shelter-in-place policies that weren’t as restrictive this year, it was not enough to increase significantly over last year’s numbers. However – though we can’t be sure without more research – there may have been an interesting correlation between download speed decreasing 31%. For instance, when schools are closed for severe weather days (such as snow), many teachers rely on distance education technology such as Blackboard or WebEx rather than commuting across town to teach their classes at the nearest available location.

The internet is up to the challenge.

Despite the internet’s ability to constantly handle increased traffic, its performance might not be on an even keel. This year it faced a 40% increase in load and experienced speed reductions of more than 50%.

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