So We’re Working From Home. Can the Internet Handle It?

Mar 16, 2020 · 175 comments
Ma (Atl)
NYTimes: In a time of crisis, and this is unprecedented, you learn who is there to help vs. create fear. You have failed. Even this article is set to scare the readers by implying the Internet will 'fail.' Seems you are always buying the seeds of fear, unless it helps one party. Sad to see the NYTimes and it's overt agenda over the past 15 years.
C Payton (Rural Northwest Oklahoma)
Living in a very rural, agricultural part of the country comes with many advantages. We do not live in town, but on family land in the country. We love where we live and do not want to move back into town. We have NO internet service except what you can get on your phone. If you are lucky enough to be able to use your phone as a hotspot, data limitations and the cost of going above those set limits makes it basically useless. It's also painfully slow. We would love to be able to work from home or educate our children at home ( who are now out of school for at least 3 weeks) but can't. I've inquired from internet providers in our area and have been told it's too expensive to bring internet to so few people. Yes, satellite is available, very expensive and way too slow to be able to keep up with education and work demands. Neighbors have tried it and said it failed miserably. So at this point, we are not being offered any options. While a big part of the country is getting connected with high speed fiber optic, rural citizens are unable to even get 1 or 2 bars, much less 3g. While others are talking about working from home, online education and streaming movies, we would just like to place on online order without loosing connection a dozen times. Oh well. We will continue to do what we do as ranchers and farmers...provide America with produce, meat, dairy and food. Thanks for letting me rant! We're just all very frustrated with it.
Ascott (CA)
Look for QoS (Quality of Service) settings in your router. Then you can prioritize certain types of bandwidth over others. Make streaming movies lower priority and video conferencing higher priority, for example. Then everyone: mom, dad, and kids, can all use the bandwidth at the same time. If your router does not support it, buy a new wifi router that does support and put that on your network, then have everyone connect to that.
Andrea Gelber (Cranford NJ)
How about we educate via TV for the children at home? Commercial-free, age-appropriate lessons. The television and satellite networks nationwide could easily deliver this, and it wouldn’t strain the internet.
Ignatius Kennedy (Brooklyn)
That was the early promise of television.
R. Anderson (South Carolina)
Human nature is to resist change and it's increasingly clear that this pandemic is going to cause disruption for an indeterminate amount of time. Human safety first. After that we are going to be forced to adapt.
Ignatius Kennedy (Brooklyn)
Categorically and unequivocally a first world problem. As we may soon learn the others.
Loomy (Australia)
Ensuring expansion of bandwidth as well as continuity of service over the coming month/s is imperative if society is to withstand the changes and privatations that are and will become even more necessary for more and possibly most people in America, Europe, Asia and most of the World.(or its largest cities at the very least.) The Internet is going to become the most important "ties that bind" us all in the days to come as it will be required to take over much of Business, Education, Commercee, Social Interaction , Inclusion and many more aspects of people's lives, security and connection in almost everything we might have to go through and continue to function as communities, Counties, Cities , States , Regions and Countries find themselves independent...isolated and effectively under broad quarantine as the virus spreads and reaches criticality affecting everything. We should not in any way underestimate the importance of the Internet and its optimisation as we prepare to enter into a moment in time unprecedented and guaranteed to test our mettle, abilities and how we best get through a challenge by which so much rests on its successful outcome which will color and set how well and quickly we bounce back once the crisis is past. It will be the Internet ...our access to it and ability to maximize its many and varied capabilities in the many ways and means it makes available to us to use that will determine just how successfully we meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Ralph Matelot (CT)
> and their two children, who at times streamed movies. People should be decent and considerate at times like this and stop watching movies and such online.
DakotaAnthony (SD)
@Ralph Matelot Yes, my thoughts, exactly, as I read the article.
MIV (California)
I published this today about the topic of remote work...So important to create a structure to work within to be successful. Remote offices are HIGHLY productive if you plan it right and plan for the blindspots and communication needs of the team/organization. I share my best tips and apps.
CGI (San Francisco)
Save, sync, save, sync, save, sync, the new mantra! Stay safe everyone!!
Dave (Lafayette, CO)
In addition to telling Americans to "hunker down" in our homes for the next two to six weeks, our leaders need to add another strong admonition: "Please use the overloaded internet only for legitimate business or educational purposes. Do NOT stream movies or TV shows. Do NOT play data-intensive online video games. Do NOT spend all day watching YouTube videos." Oh, the horror! Folks might actually have to set their phones aside and get their video fix the old-fashioned way. Watch TV (200+ channels when we used to have five). Slip a DVD into the player. Or listen to music (pull out all those dusty LPs and CDs from the closet). Or read a good book. Or finish that stalled home improvement project. Or take a walk in the park and enjoy the birds and the clouds. Or even talk to your spouse and kids. We just might inadvertently rediscover what's really important in Life. (Hint: you won't find it on any screen).
MrDeepState (DC)
I absolutely agree with other comments. No, our internet will likely be slow and ponderous, because Right Wing idiots protect their big business donors over the good of the country, over and over and over. Just like net neutrality, the US will ALWAYS lag far behind the countries who are capable of making decisions for the betterment of the country. Now, where's that AOL CD is got in the mail...
ClydeMallory (San Diego)
A better question to ask is if our spouses/partners can handle that. One day at home and already bickering.
Debbie (Reston, Va)
I do a great deal of telecommuting, and in my experience, Comcast’s bandwidth has been amble, insistently providing 17 Mb/sec of download stream for high quality video. In a townhouse or apartment, the real issue is with the WiFi. Even though I am on a separate network from my neighbors, I am competing with them for bandwidth in the same set of channels. Four pieces of advice that have worked for me: 1. If you are several rooms or floors away from your wireless access point, get a WiFi repeater. These inexpensive devices plug into an outlet and repeat your signal with more power. 2. When things get bad, use your cell phone as a WiFi hotspot. If you are doing mostly screen sharing and other work related things (not streaming video) you may find that you never blow through your data plan cap. You may be amazed at how well this works. 3. As the author suggests, hard-wire when possible. We stream our Netflix that way and rarely run into problems. 4. As a last resort, wait until your neighbors fall asleep before working. I know this is not practical for many people.
Ignatius Kennedy (Brooklyn)
Kudos! Thank you for four solid pieces of advice.
George Kennedy (Danville)
It’s articles like this that feed the fears of the populace and make the panic even greater. I find the continual gloom and doom reporting by The NY Times very irritating. The NY Times reports deaths but I can’t recall any reporting on details such as age, existing health conditions and who has recovered etc. everything is negative creating a frenzy.
Biji Basi (S.F.)
Of course it can handle it. After all, there is excess capacity with all the streaming of sports events shut down.
K (Indianapolis)
Sloppy, irresponsible reporting. There's no technical aspects to back this up, no numbers, no explanation to how any of that would work. This is just pointless fear mongering at a time when people are already scared and worried.
Gregory (Washington DC)
Good Lord. can we stop with the wall to wall COVID19 reporting? So many reporters chasing every angle...
Krista (San Francisco)
Seems fairly simple to redirect your kids to more creative/analogue options as you would on camping trips and power outages: books, puzzles, drawing, painting, word searches, etc. Have them help in the kitchen. Let’s all do our part to make this nightmare a little less frustrating. Use this opportunity to connect with each other on a real level.
Lizard (Ny)
Not a good article. We really need less gloomy news and more intelligent coverage!
NickyP (NYC)
We need a proper infrastructure plan to expand fiber internet to the whole country. Right now the streaming services eat up about half of the available bandwidth, so we’re likely to hit glitches when everyone is watching the latest Zoe’s Extraordinary Playlist.
Evan (Cohen)
Aren’t people at work on the Internet all day? What’s the difference if they’re logging on from home or their offices?
Mitch (Charlottesville, VA)
@Evan The "last-mile" to home is not the same as the "last-mile" to offices. Read the article again.
Jonathan (Lincoln)
@Evan The biggest difference is that most commercial internet connections are symmetrical (same up and down speed). Most home connections have a significantly slower upload speed.
Vlad (Toronto)
Seeing how China built a hospital in 7 days, why not let Huawei build 5g Internet in U.S (or here in Canada) in a month or so...:)
Mitch (Charlottesville, VA)
@Vlad Oh boy, you are gonna get some flak for this one :-)
MSPWEHO (West Hollywood, CA)
I would wager than almost no one who is allegedly working from home is actually working. People are either out picking through what remains on the grocery store shelves or they're already ensconced on their sofas binge watching Netflix and Amazon Prime. Work, as we know it, is largely on hold until we get through the next several months of mayhem.
Drew (Bay Area)
@MSPWEHO Nonsense. Everyone I work with is working. Email, zoom meetings, etc. Busier than ever. Now maybe in Hollywood things are different...
MSPWEHO (West Hollywood, CA)
@Drew Bingo
Ruth Breil (NYC)
THATS FUNNY AND PROBABLY TRUE! Yesterday the Hollywood hood was bouncing maniacally, and today it hunkered down... I get the report from friends everywhere, and frankly the isolation from our cultural centers and activities right here in the Apple will be hard to take if all this ‘distancing’ persists for more then the next 2 weeks. Outside my window the cherry tree rained petals all day my allergies have arrived full force... let’s hope they will ward off the germs flying around our town. Spring will arrive in no time, and hearts will hopefully soon sing again...
PATRICIA Murphy (Southern California)
I find reprehensible that your authors have the audacity to add to the hyped hysteria and ask the incredibly idiotic question “can the internet handle it”. The bandwidth used in your company’s service will be a lot lower... and all of us pay for X amount of bandwidth to be used at home, and so it goes. OF COURSE the internet will be fine when we all login from home, and our phones and everywhere else. WHY would you find this commentary or “article” worthy of publishing? Based on WHAT? Does every irrational fear deserve publication? Shame on you for propagating irrational fears on top of irrational fears.
Mitch (Charlottesville, VA)
@PATRICIA Murphy The "last-mile" to home is not the same as the "last-mile" to offices. Read the article again.
John B (Midwest)
@Mitch What will he get out of reading the article again? The false assumption that all businesses are fed by fiber and all residences are not?
Mala (Massachusetts)
No it can’t, and a good portion of the overuse is the bored teenagers we’ve prevented from spending the better part of the workday at school.
SD (London)
This article is pointless. If people work from home they are no more using the office internet connection but using the home connection. So from the internets point of view the usage is the same, it doesnt matter where you are logging in from :D
Alexandria (Ohio)
Uh.... not the same at all School for anyone lucky enough to have access will be online , and that added internet usage will be a gigantic change /strain and slowdowns will be inevitable
Bhaskar (Dallas, TX)
Get used to it. This will change the way we live, eat and work. Just like how 9/11 forever changed our air travel. Maybe there is a good that will come out of all this. We may begin to cherish life, respect nature, and value people more than before.
SR (California)
Bhaskar, finally a comment that I can agree with. Perhaps this is the one issue that could bring us altogether rather than divide us.
DC (West of Washington)
Disasters typically reveal the weak links in any system. The U.S. has been sitting on its laurels for decades cheering "We are #1" and yet we find weaknesses in its sourcing of medicines, fragile medical preparedness and weak telecommunications infrastructure. What else might we uncover?
Drew (Bay Area)
@DC Healthcare, education, job security, child-care, elder care, retirement, vacation, work-week hours, gun control, drug abuse, ... The civilized world is decades ahead of the US. At least 40 years (since Reagan), but for most such things far longer than that. No people is easier to pick off as chumps than a people that's been convinced that WE'RE NUMBER 1!!! Private prisons, mercenary army, private schools, private police,... complete insanity - the opposite of civilization, community. The US would do well to look outside, at how others have been handling all of these problems with "impossible", "idealistic", "fantasy", "socialistic" solutions - for a long time now.
Senator Blutarski, PhD (Boulder, CO)
I just hack into my neighbor’s wifi. They’re like 90 years old and use like no bandwidth. They’re totally cool with it and I pay it forward by mowing their lawn, going to the grocery store, driving them to the Dr and basically looking out for their welfare. And why not? There’s never a bad time to do the right thing.
Observer (midwest)
No . . . "we're" not working from home. In fact, service personnel, such as labor in restaurants, aren't working at all. This will be news to most NYT readers but roofers.mechanics. retail clerks, shelf re-stockers, truck and transit drivers and a host of others cannot keyboard their way to a paycheck. Mothers who have to now babysit at home, instead of drawing a paycheck, probably can't work from home. Very la-de-da. This panic is hurting such people. And, I would love to see it impact the managerial and white collar types just as badly. Perhaps the resulting grief will snap them out of this hysteria.
John B (Midwest)
@Observer Agreed. The people doing the heavy lifting aren't pencil whipping data points and having endless mindless meetings that require video conferencing.
This article is really not very informative. Why interview Mr Pando while he spouts about the need for "constant back and forth packets? The entire internet functions on back and forth packets but video conferences are among the least critical of these services. If video conferences drop some packets (they're all done via UDP protocol - look it up if you need) then they go on like normal. That's not to mention how these types of articles bring out the home IT guy that spouts misinformation such as 75 ft ethernet cables dropping packets. Yes last mile is under strain but that's the case for every local provider that hasn't built out their infrastructure to accommodate the typical increases in demand. As a network engineer, I'm sad I wasted time reading this article but I should've known better when I clicked on it.
LW (Austin, TX)
Yeah because no one used video conferencing to talk to people in other locations in business before this. And if you recall, no one used the internet while at the office before this. This article is idiotic clickbait pure and simple.
Jane Bond (Eastern CT)
Can parents handle it? Everyone's praising the privilege of telecommuting but let's face it, parents can't work with children under, say 10 years old, at home 24-7. Maybe they can get in little spurts of work (at midnight, or if kids can occupy themselves for a few moments during the day). For a week this might work, but for months? And what about their sanity? Especially single parents, no break at all, especially without play dates or even playground trips. And these are the "lucky" parents who can stay home.
Miss E (Kansas City Mo)
I think it’s time y’all learned to knit.
Ann (Virginia)
@Miss E I get an email every day from It is really fun to see what people do, lots of creativity and other info. Have been knitting and sewing since I was nine and I am seventy two. Do it for gifts to family, friends, and charity. Am also a quilter.
Marie (Minneapolis)
@Miss E My yarn stash will get a serious working through. Time to teach my roommates/family.
Robert (NY)
When electricity was getting started there were areas of the country were electric bills would not pay for running the power lines. Rosevelt set up the REA to provide funds so the electric companies could afford to run new power lines. We now need the same type of program to support proving internet service to every one no mater were they live. If a house has electric power it should have internet service. This is especially true now with everyone working or schooling from home.
William Perrigo (U.S. Citizen) (Germany)
The key words in the contract are: “Up To” and let’s hope more up and kess to.
jhanzel (Glenview)
Gee ... I was amazed at how I could go from a 4K dial up to ...
Gusting (Ny)
If today was any indication, nope.
Sparky Jones (Charlotte)
Think about it. All these kids streaming classes and games. People have no idea that their internet is on a common line, like a party line. If Jeff is watching a movies or playing a game, he is eating up the band with.
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
The reason for and appropriate use of bandwidth “caps” on individual accounts placed by internet providers needs to be explained. Is it to prevent individuals (think Bitcoin data miners) from overloading the services? Or is it to make people pay the maximum possible amount for their internet connections? Our average internet bandwidth is not among the greatest, while our cost is amongst the highest. Hopefully, the internet service providers have plenty of reserve capacity and just want to “capitalize” on their investment. Of course, it is plausible that if we had a competitive environment and allowed local governments to also provide internet access, our costs for service might drop and our average bandwidth increase. And if our Internet providers DON’T have enough capacity for larger bandwidth demands, then again that is an argument for additional service providers (including from local governments).
SR (Bronx, NY)
Once again, the World's Richest Country proves itself so only for the World's Richest People. It is a national embarrassment that people even *might* have to cut down on internet use to free up the Series of Tubes that ISPs ought to have upgraded as they were PAID with OUR TAX MONEY to do in the first place. As more people hunker down and watch videos, play needlessly-byte-heavy AAA games (corporate money doesn't buy programming or management competence), or chat in virtual hangouts, I expect pain even for fiber users, let alone dialup and others.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
An ethernet cable will help but not on a 75-foot line. Are you joking? Best answer: "...the longer the cable the weaker the signal becomes. once the signal is weak enough it starts to lose bits of information because of interferences, each time a bit is lost, something in the network layer sees that a checksum/parity check fails, and asks for that packet again. Asking for a new packet will take a very long time. So as long as signal is strong in the cable, the slowdown would be minimal (it is greater than I expected anyway). Once you start losing information because cable is too long, the slowdown would greatly increase." Personally, I try to keep home ethernet lines 10-feet or less. Anything more will require a repeater. Everything on the wifi is considered permanently suspect. Don't rely on it for regular work. Have you also considered whether your neighbors are pirating your internet or not? If you have publicly broadcast wifi with a crowded range, it'll take any interested party only three days to hack your network. Tops. They might not get internal access but your internet is anyone's to stream. You also have to worry about frequency traffic. Just like 9/11. If too many people are using the same radio wavelength, you're going to end up with a traffic jam. More lost packets. More signal delays. Everyone is talking over each other. LAN is better. But please, no 75-foot lines.
Peter Jay (Northern NJ)
@Andy The distance allowed for most wired Ethernet connections is 100 meters (about 328 FEET). If the devices are properly designed (and the vast majority of them are), it typically doesn't matter if that cable is 1 meter long or 100 meters long. And if you put a typical Ethernet switch in-between to extend the cables, the switch automatically acts a repeater and will give you yet another 100 meters.
Andy (Salt Lake City, Utah)
@Peter Jay 300ft in a business if the network is properly cabled. I'm talking about a home network.
Joyce (Northeastern PA)
Thank you. No. It cannot. And there is no infrastructure to accommodate our now "streaming" Universities. or K-12 nationally. give me a break.
John B (Midwest)
And no matter what infrastructure is put in place, it wouldn’t be enough or fast enough.
Noo Yawka (New York, NY)
Not only can the existing internet capacity NOT handle this, but the bigger issue is the vast numbers of financial and medical personnel now working from home who have no means to secure our most private and personal information as a result of the Trump administration's failure to provide for such.
Locke_ (The Tundra)
@Noo Yawka Internet security for financial and medical personal is the responsibility of the companies that employ those people, not the federal government.
Gusting (Ny)
@Locke_ which won’t happen unless the federal government dictates it
AutumnLeaf (Manhattan)
I am sure my little data used in emails and transmission of data packages will be a lot less strain than every one streaming movies all night long. I am sure my sending a pdf to a trucker will not break the internet.
Aspasia Milesian (NYC)
Maybe eliminating net neutrality wasn't such a hot idea. The internet is a public utility. It should be regulated as one.
The Woodwose (Florida)
@Aspasia Milesian Net neutrality would have made this situation 1000 times worse. Net neutrality means that there can be no prioritizing of internet traffic. PERIOD. Without net neutrality, voice traffic could be prioritized over video if we had to, or data over both. In that case the clown in the article complaining about not being able to do video conferencing, could at least fall back on voice conferencing if he had to. We can pick and choose the traffic that gets priority in order to best deal with the current crisis, rather than being handcuffed by net neutrality and watch all our communications grind to a complete stop without regard to it's importance.
Casey (New York, NY)
@Aspasia Milesian The internet became a utility the second the IRS and NY State said I had to "pay on line" and I could NOT pay at the bank, or send checks....
FTenou (NJ)
This is fear mongering. NYT you are supposed to be a serious publication. My kids are on internet at school I am on the internet at work!! The volume should be the same it’s just the location change why even print this??
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
@FTenou, Actually, you are not likely to be on the same “pipe” as your child. You likely share bandwidth with neighbors and now some may be “demanding” more of it. If your service has adequate reserve capacity, you won’t necessarily notice a slowdown. If you do on the other hand, that will speak for itself.
The Woodwose (Florida)
@FTenou It is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same thing. Schools and businesses are usually connected to the internet through different pipes than are homes, and more importantly, their pipes are usually bigger than the pipes homes are connected to. So imagine if you take all that school and work traffic and start piping it through through the home pipes. It's gonna start backing up sooner or later. That said, we are better prepared for this than we were even 6 months ago. People don't realize how much constant work goes on expanding network connectivity these days.
The Woodwose (Florida)
@FTenou It is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same thing. Schools and businesses are usually connected to the internet through different pipes than are homes, and more importantly, their pipes are usually bigger than the pipes homes are connected to. So imagine if you take all that school and work traffic and start piping it through through the home pipes. It's gonna start backing up sooner or later. That said, we are better prepared for this than we were even 6 months ago. People don't realize how much constant work goes on expanding network connectivity these days.
T Smith (Texas)
The networks will more likely be strained by steaming of entertainment video content.
Peter Jay (Northern NJ)
@T Smith 100% Correct. It's by far the single highest drain on Internet infrastructure.
Hendrik (Sugar Grove,IL)
This article is in line with some other articles beginning to appear in the New York Times pointing out a potential technical and obvious problem in our culture. It does so by anecdotal evidence from individuals, which gives no real insight into the problem ( not even mentioning a solution). What would be more useful and constructive would be usage data over time, which each internet provider (and many others) have, because the network is heavily monitored. Such objective information would be more useful and in line with what the New York Times normally publishes, when it points out a problem. Articles like this only contributes to the ongoing corona-virus hype.
Peter Jay (Northern NJ)
Stop!! Remote access to office computers takes VERY LITTLE BANDWIDTH. Steaming a single 4K movie to your home uses THOUSANDS OF TIMES MORE DATA than maybe hundreds (or more) of remote access sessions PLUS hundreds (or more) of simultaneous phone calls. Not to mention that video streaming is more or less continuous, while remote access is more or less "bursty" in practice, and phone calls are very "bursty." Bursty data can can be broken up or interrupted more readily for short amounts of time, without much being noticed at either end. The affect of this will only be noticed if the office being accessed has a poor Internet connection in the first place, or if its local network (LAN) or LAN devices have issues. Or if the remote worker has a poor Internet connection or personal computer issues. So in the scheme of things, this is not something that need much attention. The "cloud" will get along just fine. Now, too many people staying home and streaming 4K movies - that's another story.
Jack Routledge (New York City)
“Throttling” will undoubtedly rear its ugly head as telecommuters, displaced school kids, etc. consume far more bandwidth than last miles were engineered for. Regulators will have to step in as referees to ensure workers and students both have their bandwidth needs met, especially during the current Coronavirus Crisis. —JR
MJM (Newfoundland, Canada)
Love the graphic for this piece. Look closely and see what is going on in each of those windows. Several good chuckles.
Matt (San José)
I can’t say this article is socially useful journalism. We’ve just begun to shift to the work-from-home paradigm during the coronavirus crisis, and frankly we just don’t know yet whether our internet infrastructure is adequate. For the time being, I’m satisfied to have received a proactive email message from our provider assuring customers of its focus on maintaining connectivity during the crisis. They’re on it. Please, NYT, refrain from speculative click-baiting at a time like this. It does nothing more than gin up uncertainty.
AK (Seattle)
Too bad we didn't demand the backbone providers to actually update their infrastructure with the money they charge for that very purpose. This paper is complicit. The fcc and ajit pai are in bed with industry.
sapere aude (Maryland)
Yet one more thing that S. Korea is way ahead of the US with their super fast and cheaper Internet.
VJR (North America)
I think the COVID-19 virus is perhaps the greatest thing that ever happened to the Democratic party because all the ripples effects due to this pandemic just illustrate that liberal policies were best along.
Innocent Bystander (Highland Park, IL)
Instead of video conferencing, why don't people just do audio conferencing? Just seems like the video dimension is inessential and it would certainly take some of the load off the networks. Movies and games? That's another story.
W in the Middle (NY State)
Alarmist nonsense… First, why is videoconferencing suddenly needed – in nearly all business meetings, some folks are (audio) conferencing in… Second, unless one’s in the business of collaboratively building HD or UHD videogames, the only bandwidth needed is for change-driven screen transfers… Third, while I’ve never been a fan of either of my carriers, they have delivered the exponential increases in bandwidth that they’d promised, over the past decade… One more thing for which to thank Steve Jobs… And not the NYT op-sci staff… PS This notwithstanding, South Korea’s left us in the dust on this one, too… When the NYT focuses on fact – rather than anecdote – they’re not half bad…
albert (arlington)
In today's world an internet connection is as vital a power and water. That is why it is silly to entrust such vital infrastructure to corporation who's motive is profit. It needs to be owned or regulated by the government. There is no reason why high speed is only available in the big cities and cost over 65 dollars a month.
David (Pacific Northwest)
@albert Keep talking like that, and next thing you will be called a socialist...!
SR (Bronx, NY)
And that government ought to be a Sane government that heeds the heroic Edward Snowden. A vile-GOP one will snoop on things like users' porn-browsing to blackmail and impose theocracy, then gladly enjoy it themselves (see: Rafael Cruz); a Democratic one will still encourage the next Snowden (see: how Obama never pardoned him as President nor fought the FISA bill as Senator), but would at least be less morally hypocritical.
Barb Dwyer (Manhattan)
What great artwork by Pete Gamlen!
Eric (Long Island, NY)
I am an IT consultant in NYC. The issue I'm seeing is with the remote access systems setup for small / medium businesses getting overloaded. For the past few weeks, we have been trying to upgrade client systems that were designed to support only a handful of users working remotely in the evening to be able to support the bulk of the organization working from home.
Peter Jay (Northern NJ)
@Eric Yeah, you're likely to see that when the client's Internet connection is a Coax Cable modem or copper-wired DSL. These typically have less bandwidth upstream than downstream ("asymmetrical" circuits), which can definitely become overloaded. Not to mention frequent reliability problems with many of these circuits. When you have a Fiber or other connection that's fast enough (and is usually symmetrical - bandwidth the same both ways), and has a higher level of overall reliability, this will probably not be a big issue. Good luck getting FIOS (inexpensive fiber from Verizon) in vast parts of the NYC area. The ones who don't have it available usually have usually-inferior Coax-cable Internet or expensive leased lines.
atb (Chicago)
We're using Comcast with no issues (so far) but I WFH often and my husband does every day.
tjd (atl)
"which was built atop a premium broadband internet package from Comcast" Well, there you go. That's what you get for using a cable TV company for internet. It has ALWAYS been that way.
Jordan (Brooklyn)
Optimum having a "serivce outtage" in my part of Brooklyn since this morning for in-home internet - ironicaly their wifi hotspot is still working in my neighborhood. Great timing.
Steph (CO, formerly NYC)
It isn't just ISPs - GoToMeeting had an outage this morning and is still sluggish. I imagine this will get worse before it gets better...
CT Reader (Fairfield County`)
So far, the internet hasn't crashed here. Might I suggest Mr. Pando restrict his children's downloading of movies to non-working hours?
VJR (North America)
@CT Reader Or, considering that Mr. Pando is 35, maybe his young kids shouldn't be streaming movies, period.
jb (brooklyn)
Oh people, please just turn off the video for your calls. I don’t need to see you in your bedroom or your jammies anyway.
Karen (USA)
@jb It's not about people seeing me. It's about them seeing my slide deck and my documents, seeing what I am "pointing" to, seeing what I am writing and typing... Seeing the information that can be conveyed in pictures and gestures far faster, more accurately, and more effectively than with mere words.
Marc Berkowitz (San Francisco California)
A suggestion: share your slide deck, spreadsheet, screen shots in advance by email or by some tool like slack. Write up an agenda and share it. Do an audio meeting. (I bet you can easily share documents during the meeting too.) Instead of pointing say “as you see on line 6”. It’s a bit extravagant to live-stream video of pictures that don’t move. And an agenda keeps a meeting focused.
atb (Chicago)
@Karen I just share my desktop screen. No need for anyone to see me.
Usok (Houston)
If they don't have school aged kids or infants, they should be able to handle work from remote locations. Unfortunately, a lot of them do have kids. With kids also staying at home without, how can parents work as usual without interruptions. As grand parents, we are on call right now. We have to support our kids and grandkids in tome of needs. If some folks with kids without grandparents or available babysitting alternatives, they are doomed unless they are superman or superwoman.
hectare (Phoenix)
People are from home isn't adding more load to the Internet backbone, it's just changing the source from the office network to the home networks
michael r (new your USA)
@hectare That doesn't sound right - we used to have a conference room with 10 people on a single video feed from NY to CA, where another team of 10 on the other end. Now we have 20 individuals all connecting from independent locations - that's *definitely* not the same. Details dpend on how the service is structured, but it's easily between 10 and 20 times as much bandwidth used. It's unclear how funny that is!
Stephen Rinsler (Arden, NC)
@hectare, Maybe the “backbone” won’t be strained, but the “fingers” in my home might easily be fractured.
Anbrew B (Brooklyn)
Wholly untrue. I'll ignore local intranets for the sake of this - my company is spending more than double the time in video conference calls. This is data intensive and scales linearly. Now think about the millions of schoolchildren.
Birdygirl (CA)
Here, again, South Korea leads in WiFi. It is free and available all over the country. Their preparation for the COVID-19 outbreak was swift and well prepared. We have a lot to learn from South Korea.
Matt (USA)
@Birdygirl Like how to make Oscar winning movies.
Frank (Colorado)
Tell the kids to read a book. The only bandwidth needed for this platform is between your ears.
Left Coast (California)
@Frank That works in theory for average learners. However for our students with challenges in learning (autism, LLDs, dyslexia, etc.), they require specialized academic instruction. In this technological age, we educators can provide that using myriad internet platforms.
NWArkann (Fayetteville, AR)
@Frank Exactly right! Or they could rediscover board games--Scrabble, Parcheesi, Chess. Playing cards. Dig out those Legos. Learn Origami. Learn some cool magic tricks. Memorize tongue twisters. Write funny limericks. Compose in iambic pentameter. Play charades. Learn American Sign Language (great way to hide what you're saying from your parents!) Learn to play ukulele. Practice drawing --all it takes is paper and a pencil. Practice cursive or better yet calligraphy. For teens: Learn To Cook!! Crimeny, none of the youngsters I know today have a clue what a kitchen is for. Also teens: learn to sew. At least so you can replace a button or mend your own clothes if they rip. Maybe there's even a sewing machine in your house. Learn to use it, the payback will be enormous over the course of your lifetime. The list of things we pre-digital children did to amuse ourselves is endless. And in my opinion, all of these hands-on real-world activities did a much better job of teaching much-needed life skills (hand-eye coordination, self-empowerment, team building, independent thought, creative imagination, how to eat well and cheaply, to name a few) than watching movies or playing video games.
Frank (Colorado)
@Left Coast Or you can stay off the internet. Average learners are just that. Right in the middle. Which implies that it also works for above average learners. Nothing wrong with challenging some below average kids with non-electronic activities.
MB (SilverSpring, MD)
A day before school closed in Caracas I noticed a slowdown in the internet above and beyond its usual flackiness.
LIChef (East Coast)
To all of you who are experiencing slow service and yet are panicked over that socialist Sanders ever reaching the White House, here’s what he would do for you on broadband: “Require that all internet service providers offer a Basic Internet Plan that provides quality broadband speeds at an affordable price. Increase the FCC definition of minimum broadband speeds to 100mbps download speeds and 10mbps upload speeds.” It’s amazing how Bernie has considered just about everything average Americans would need to have better lives and yet so many would keep him from the Oval Office.
h king (mke)
@LIChef What's Bernie's position on free beer?
Left Coast (California)
@LIChef Please do not call Sanders a “Socialist”. It feeds the trolls and prevents the average American voter from fully understanding his politics.
VJR (North America)
@LIChef EXACTLY! This COVID-19 pandemic is going to be the best thing for the Democratic party since the Great Depression. Once FDR got in power, America became a much better place which Democratic policies protecting millions from future folly that the GOP would never protect against.
Zetelmo (Minnesota)
My internet service seems OK, but my stockbroker's website has crashed out more than once.
Gina Ryan (Westport, Connecticut)
Trying to get on our weekly team conference call was a problem this morning.
misterdangerpants (arlington, mass)
So, you're at work checking your social media account and watching YouTube videos and now you're doing it at home. You just moved the traffic from one place to another. I don't see why it would be any slower.
Karen (USA)
@misterdangerpants No, I'm at home doing what I used to do face-to-face at work: having team meetings with my graduate students and postdocs, talking with students about their projects, teaching statistics and measurement classes... none of which used to require any internet traffic.
Arthur Collard (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Is it time to have internet connectivity, which is now essential to modern life, be designated as a utility? Hope Elon's SpaceX Starlink with world-wide internet access will be on schedule!
TheraP (Midwest)
They tore up all the streets - for broadband. And now the streets are deteriorating. And the broadband seems not to be up to par - to compensate for the deteriorating streets. This nation is going backwards.
JerrytheK (Denver, CO)
I live in suburban Denver and have Comcast 500 Mbps service. Prior to this situation, I consistently tested at about 575 Mbps download, and that's after going through a router and two switches. It would be faster if I hooked up directly to the modem. I just checked, and it tested at 588 Mbps, so at least here, it's as good right now as it's been in the recent past.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
Not smart to even suggest that there may not be enough bandwidth to handle all of the extra Internet traffic. The last thing this country needs is people hoarding bandwidth.
Jay Orchard (Miami Beach)
@Jay Orchard (Assuming that is actually a thing)
wbj (ncal)
You'll have to fight your way through the fortress of toilet paper first!
h king (mke)
@Jay Orchard I've got bandwidth, TP, beer and single malts that I'd be happy to sell market rates of course.
Elizabeth (Kansas)
Thanks for this important article. It's good to know that the internet providers are ramping up or are prepared to do so. NYTimes, please consider what advice you can give to internet users to minimize our hogging of the bandwidth if that becomes a necessity. For example, should we avoid having multiple internet browser windows/tabs open if we are not using them? Are there ways of communicating that take more or less bandwidth? Should we try to use email, or messaging rather than making phone calls? Where can we tighten our internet belts, to leave more capacity for everyone to share?
Justin (CT)
@Elizabeth Step one is installing an ad blocker into your browser. All those pictures, animations, and gratuitous video hogs a ton of data, vastly more than the underlying website in most cases.
NWArkann (Fayetteville, AR)
@Justin I heartily agree, and have done so. My ad blocker however prevents me from accessing many news sites -- I mean real news, not fluff stuff. Rather than turning ad block on and off I have learned to avoid sites that require it. I really wish that all sites providing coronavirus updates would adopt a policy of going ad-free for those articles.
veh (metro detroit)
Microsoft Teams decided to misbehave this morning, of all mornings...since we are all working at home and my company is international, Teams is absolutely critical for us. My home internet has been OK so far but I could see the worst being yet to come
Doug Tarnopol (Cranston, RI)
I was wondering about this, too. Admit I haven't yet read the article, but it'd be nice to hear from all the main ISPs about what the plan is--and what is physically possible, too.
A. Gideon (Montclair, NJ)
@Doug Tarnopol "Admit I haven't yet read the article" That means you didn't see the instructions for increasing your home internet bandwidth by a factor of five in three easy steps? ...Andrew
DC (Philadelphia)
I want to hear from the companies that support the Internet backbone as to what they are doing, what are they seeing in terms of capacity usage, etc. This needs to be transparent to everyone.
DC (Philadelphia)
@DC I also think that non-essential video streaming needs to be stopped. And Netflix falls into the non-essential category along with most of YouTube and other similar services. ESPN should shut down their video streaming of movies, past sport games, etc., same for all of the major channels.
Robert (New York)
@DC That's not relevant, all of those stream from the edge over the last-mile. Usually the bottleneck in home internet service is between the ISPs and "upstream" (the rest of the internet) but the video providers are all on your side of that bottleneck.
h king (mke)
@DC Netflix "non-essential" what planet do you live on?!
Thomas (Seattle)
The USA is far behind other developed nations in terms of true high speed internet. We need a public option for internet - fiber to the home/apartment and cell service broadband for rural communities. The joke of "infrastructure week" needs to stop being a joke. Why is the slowest DSL service available in France faster than that fastest I can get in my tech-heavy major city? Why do I only have 2 choices for home broadband, neither of which give me the speeds or price available in other nations?
DC (Atlanta)
My internet is working fine albeit slowly. I think that Comcast may have instituted some caps on bulk file downloads and video streaming in order to protect VPN and web conferencing. Dial in bridges have been overwhelmed though.
OSS Architect (Palo Alto, CA)
The "last mile" in WAN broadband networks is made more "economically feasible" by a practice known as "overbooking". This is, essentially, reselling the same bandwidth to multiple users. Normally this works because a broadband network rarely reaches peak demand. When it does, "network latency" increases. This affects video and gaming first, then VoIP, then email. Since these are all specific "protocols", ISP's can throttle service by protocol, or by endpoint IP address. Netflix, to its credit, has built its own private/parallel internet to offload demand on ISP backbone network links. It does have to relay on local broadband service providers to link "the last mile". @Mike in Omaha must be a network engineer, like me, and he gives a list of things end users can and should do to limit the congestion on the broadband networks.
JD (DC metro)
@OSS Architect "Netflix has a private/parallel internet?" That's an odd explanation which will leave everyone misunderstanding what really happens. IMHO, it's more enlightening to say Netflix minimizes traffic by offering video servers to ISPs for installation in their central offices. The ISPs accept because this avoids load on their core networks, and for smaller ISPs, means they pay less money to their tier 1 upstream providers like ATT & VZ. Netflix saves money by running part of their data center functionality on ISP power, a/c, and space while reducing connectivity charges .... and customers get a better experience. It's smart, and Netflix is totally open about what they are doing.
DennisD (Joplin, MO)
What's sad is that telecom companies such as AT&T have received subsidies for years to expand broadband, & haven't. Rural areas are certainly starved for broadband. I live 4 miles outside a metro area, & finally hooked up to cable internet last October. (Yes, believe it or not, I was a NY Times digital subscriber using dialup all that time, until it became too tedious to do anything other than check e-mail.) I do feel sorry for school children who are expected to have broadband access & don't because their parents can't afford a computer, let alone broadband service. And with this virus closing locations by the minute, it's not like you can just go down to a fast-food restaurant or library & use wifi. We have a fragile, patchwork grid, & it's time to address that at the federal level.
Matt (Fairfax VA)
Most teleconferencing platforms use ~1Mbps up/down per conference call. So the problem is probably not with your ISP unless you have really slow broadband connection (i.e. 2Mbps). The problem is probability further into the cloud somewhere between your ISP and the application/website that you are trying to access. It probably is experiencing growing pains and wasn't designed to scale this large. And as the authors correctly point out, the other problem area is probably the in home Wi-Fi. Newer Wi-Fi routers DO work better than the older ones.
Mike (Omaha)
We're just at the tip of the iceberg now. I fully expect to need the likes of Netflix/Disney+/Xbox Live/Playstation Network to be throttled and/or rationed during the work day soon. Worse, it will require those companies to voluntarily do this. Similarly, although video conferencing can often take the place of air travel, video conferencing outfits like Zoom/Webex/GoToMyPC should consider implementing reasonable bitrate limits to support the increase in users. Meetings need not be in 4K or 1080p at 5 Mbps during this crisis. In fact, if non-video messaging services like Slack, Teams, and even email should be considered whenever possible. Corporate VPNs also need to be configured and optimized properly. As Ars Technica wrote recently, there's no need to tunnel Office 365 or any cloud service through the VPN. And while raw network bandwidth is an issue, I'm just as concerned about server capacity. It doesn't do any good to have fat pipes if the underlying servers are too overloaded with millions of users trying to access them simultaneously.
paul (CA)
The US never invested in broadband the way Europe and Asia did. This is one more thing that is going to be discovered and criticized.
caljn (los angeles)
@paul But! But! The free market!
T Smith (Texas)
@paul That’s drivel of the first order. I spend a lot of time in France and high speed internet is not nearly are ubiquitous outside major cities as it is here.
Carlos R. Rivera (Coronado CA)
@paul Hmmm, if the US has an obesity problem, I suspect that faster and more stable web is not going to enhance that image.
David (Seattle)
Most workers don't need full-day video conferencing, but we'll see how that works out for schools that really will consume this over extended periods of time. Will Zoom zoom or crawl?
JP (Atlanta)
"the internet is a privilege, not a utility" - Democrats and Republicans, both for the past decade. More moderation in modernization getting us nowhere fast here.
Gretchen (Maryland)
Perhaps one outcome would be for Congress and FCC to allow municipal broadband development, especially for communities whose student population cannot count on existing broadband services.
Javalin (NYC)
I want to share a story and would love your feedback... I'm working from home for the next few weeks and had my office calls forwarded to my cell phone. My boss wanted me to go to the office, take my kids, get my office phone and connect at home so any outgoing calls show they are coming from my office phone and not my cell phone. I told there is no way I am doing that. Am I missing something here? It's 2020 - any reason why a client or vendor would care if a call i make comes from my cell or office phone, especially when we are all working from home?
Syameena Pillai (Calgary, Alberta)
@Javalin Unfortunately my boss is making the same unreasonable demands. Until this situation can be resolved, we all need to look out for our own health and our family's health. Especially in your case, your boss seems to be hyper-controlling for no logical and rational reason. Keep calm and ignore him.
GS (Berlin)
@Javalin That doesn't even make any sense. Your office phone will not retain your office number when you plug it in somewhere else. Depending on your setup at home, it would either show your home number, or just not work at all.
dcbcn (Washington, DC)
@Javalin Ignore your boss. I work in sales, use my work phone only for work, and most clients assume that it's my cell phone number and I have to tell them to not text me on that number. Yours probably also presume that you're calling from a cell phone. Besides, if a call from you is a sign that your customer's business has a chance of surviving this crisis, I'm certain that your customers will be glad to hear from you no matter what.
AEH (Virginia)
Thankfully, our service (Comcast 100MB download) has been fine. I haven't noticed any real slowness, but I don't do anything heavy handed. We do stream HD movies/shows, but nothing more than that. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Best of luck with this to all of you.
Guy Walker (New York City)
Last night I couldn't stream the debate. I don't know if it is the internet, or CNN, but it kept stalling. I never have had this problem. I tried a MacBook Pro costing $1,700 and a Chromebook interface, neither of which worked and that leaves me to suspect the internet is not big enough for the heavy weight ahead.
h king (mke)
@Guy Walker I had no problem getting the debate on my 3-yr old, Acer Chromebook. I got my wife to drop the debate and we streamed "The Wire" which was much more entertaining than listening to a couple of old geezers prattle on about nothing. TLDR: You didn't miss much.
Guy Walker (New York City)
@h king As I am attempting to gather as much information as I possibly am able (everyone needs to be tested) the UK show Toast Of London is getting me through these dark evening hours with much laughter.
PhillyExPat (Bronx)
My free conference call number didn't work today either. We tried multiple times to have a call with five users; I had to go meet in person.
CK (Christchurch NZ)
It's not good for students futures to have them out of school. Maybe set up schooling similar to Correspondence School. Lots of small religious groups teach their kids at home through correspondence over the internet and the government pays them the money they usually allocate to schools. Maybe set up a similar system for school kids, as a year out of school can affect their future job prospects. Libraries also offer homework help over the internet. Maybe these are great places to set up correspondence schools from, and allocate the local libraries the money that normally is allocated by government to schools.
Liz C (Portland, Oregon)
@ CK — Alas, the public libraries here in our county (Multnomah County, Oregon) all closed over the weekend until who knows when? So no homework help from there for the time being.
Will Hogan (USA)
One of the most difficult parts of managing my family with the coronavirus is making the kids understand things are different and they are losing some functionality. They cannot go over to a friends house that has 5 or 6 other friends in a group, as then they functionally contact each of the people that each of those 5 or 6 other kids individually contacted. New world=new restrictions. The same applies to the internet. The kids of everyone need to not stream movies during working hours so that the parents can work productively, or the economy will suffer depression not just recession. So, stopping your kids from streaming video is probably going to save the US. Think I am exaggerating. Well, when one dominoe falls the next is more likely to as well, so think big picture and outside of the box!
DR (New England)
@Will Hogan - Good point. Now might be a good time to reintroduce kids to good old-fashioned books.
LIChef (East Coast)
My Internet provider is known for cutting corners and being cheap, and we are already experiencing some minor problems. Our current speed is about a quarter of what we have been promised. But, again, that might be normal since our provider is also known for overstating it’s capabilities and delivering less than promised under normal circumstances.
Bill White (Ithaca)
I've already noticed slow internet response at home, particularly this morning: at one point I could not connect to any web sites. My home internet is generally quite good, so this is unusual. I've decided to come in to work, where the internet is working fine. Since there is almost no one else in the building, I'm nearly as socially isolated here as at home!
Patrick (Columbus OH)
@Bill White By showing up to work at the office you are also potentially spreading coronavirus airborne throughout the office if you are carrying it. So hopefully your janitorial staff cleans thoroughly and at-risk coworkers don't catch it if they get the same idea to just work at the office since there are less people.
Snack Fu (Nyc)
I have generally found that ISPs have been overselling their capacity for years, up-charging for "premium services" that provide very little difference. Companies invest as little into this infrastructure act they possible are required to, basically ensuring they get the greatest pay day out of the least amount of investment (like most things in the US). As a recommendation, I tell people to fo to and test their UL/DL speeds. If you are not getting the speeds you pay for, contact your ISP; sometimes it's a matter of their flipping a switch. I've often found if I don't check it regularly, they start throttling my bandwidth below what I pay for. Generally, Verizon, Optimum, Comcast, etc. are cheap, lazy, and greedy, behavior that was likely encouraged by lax FCC regulations. Decades of this behavior will probably come down on them hard as networks grind to a halt and everyone wonders what they are paying for.
GS (Berlin)
@Snack Fu Same here, these companies are outright fraudsters. They can't keep their promises even in normal times. In a crisis like this they will implode. Fortunately I recently switched from such a criminal gang (promised 200 MBit/s, delivered often less than 2 MBit/s) to the best provider in the country (promise 100 MBit/s, deliver 100 MBit/s).
H (Chicago)
@Snack Fu Readers, DO NOT use that link. I've reported that comment because your suggested link redirects to a bunch of spammy, suspicious websites and doesn't perform any sort of speed test. A Google search shows the page doesn't contain any info. Perhaps you made a simple mistake while typing, but it's extremely negligent to not test a link before you go online telling others to use it. Speedtest.NET was suggested as an alternative and worked for me. Feel free to research it first rather than going there directly. And err on the side of caution when deciding whether to click a link.
Bob (No. California)
@Snack Fu Agreed, as there are many suburbanites like me who never got anything better than "Faux-Verse", that is, fiber to a neighborhood node and thousands of feet of copper to the home (over 4,000' for me). There is zero incentive for the telecom company to invest and improve, and my speed is capped by the Hooterville infrastructure of squirrel-eaten sagging wires.
Tortuga (Headwall, CO)
It was never a great home Internet service to begin with. Now it is severely struggling with some many folks at home trying to use it. My wife is thinking of working (from home, now) late at night to avoid the crush.
See also