With the coronavirus still spreading across all corners of the globe, much of the world is in full-on lockdown mode. In the United States, for example, major metropolitan areas like New York City and Chicago have ordered restaurants and bars to shut down entirely. Meanwhile, a variety of other public establishments — from movie theaters and gyms to Apple retail stores — closed for business a few days ago.
This, coupled with the fact that many employers are letting employees work from home when possible, has resulted in a somewhat precedented scenario where the number of people staying home and going online — either to work or to stream a variety of media content — is perhaps higher than it’s ever been at any other time in history
To this point, The New York Times notes:
“As millions of people across the United States shift to working and learning from home this week to limit the spread of the coronavirus, they will test internet networks with one of the biggest mass behavior changes that the nation has experienced.
That is set to strain the internet’s underlying infrastructure, with the burden likely to be particularly felt in two areas: the home networks that people have set up in their residences and the home internet services from Comcast, Charter and Verizon that those home networks rely on.”
In light of that, Speedtest.net is keeping a close eye on how the surge in people going online concurrently is impacting internet performance on a country by country basis.
In the United States, for instance, Speedtest took a look at broadband performance in three areas: King County, Washington, San Francisco County in California and Westchester County in New York. While initial broadband speed as of March 13 appeared to be relatively normal, the dynamic changed when Speedtest conducted another test just three days later:
March 16, 2020: Mean download speed over fixed broadband decreased in San Francisco and Westchester counties between the week of March 2 and the week of March 9. The decline was sharpest in Westchester County. Mobile download speed increased in both Westchester County and San Francisco County during the same period. Mobile latency also increased in San Francisco County.
March 13, 2020: Mobile and fixed broadband download speeds appear to be varying within a normal range through the week of March 2 in all areas of the United States that we analyzed. When we update this analysis next week we will be looking to see if the mean fixed broadband download speed in King County continues to drop and whether mean download speed over mobile continues to decline in San Francisco County.
Undoubtedly, we’ll have more complete data to work with in the coming weeks given that a good percentage of the workforce didn’t start working from home until this week.
Having said that, a number of internet providers, who are obviously aware that an avalanche of traffic is coming their way, have boosted internet speeds in some areas.