Technology With internet usage surging, companies are scrambling to keep it all running

22:40  26 march  2020
22:40  26 march  2020 Source:   popsci.com

Ford hopes you'll trade some privacy for discounted car insurance

  Ford hopes you'll trade some privacy for discounted car insurance Ford thinks it has a way to make car insurance more appealing: taking advantage of the data available from connected cars. It's teaming up with Nationwide to introduce its own take on usage-based insurance. If you have one of several 2020 Ford or Lincoln models (like the Mustang you see above), you can sign up for a policy that uses the vehicle's built-in modem to track your driving habits and adjust your rates accordingly with each renewal. The technology tracks distance, your aggressiveness with pedals, idle time and night driving. You'll get a better deal if you're a gentle commuter than a foot-to-the-floor enthusiast, in other words.

Social distancing in light of the coronavirus has had the exact effect you’d expect on people’s streaming video habits. According to Nielsen, US streaming volume has never been higher, and people staying home can lead to up to a 60-percent increase in overall content consumption. Luckily, there’s an abundance of great things to watch: highly-produced prestige TV, movies that should still be in theaters, gamers streaming their favorite titles, and prolific YouTube channels that have cranked up production to match demand from bored audiences. And that’s before we consider all the video chats

a person standing in front of a computer: If you're having trouble with your internet, it's probably not straight from the source. © Pixabay If you're having trouble with your internet, it's probably not straight from the source.

All that entertainment requires internet bandwidth and usage is up accordingly. A report from Cloudflare suggests that total US internet traffic has spiked roughly 18 percent since March 1st, which is about the same uptick that happens around the Super Bowl. It’s a considerable jump, but according to a report by connection testing site, Speedtest.net, the surge hasn’t affected actual download speeds in the US thanks to its relatively modern infrastructure. Other countries, especially hard-hit European countries like Italy, Germany, and Spain, however, have suffered slowdowns.

The rise of cloud computing has had a smaller climate impact than feared

  The rise of cloud computing has had a smaller climate impact than feared As more and more gargantuan data centers come on line, environmentalists have been concerned about massive increases in electricity consumption and pollution. However, according to a new study published in Science, that simply hasn't happened. While cloud computing output has jumped by 600 percent from 2010 to 2018, energy consumption rose by just 6 percent. That's because companies like Google have massively increased efficiencies with new chip designs, custom-tailored airflow solutions and other tech. Between 2005 and 2010, data center electricity consumption increased by a lot more (56 percent), as the New York Times reported.

Despite relatively stable networks, tech companies have been proactive about trying to downplay the huge amounts of data they require. Yesterday, Google announced that its YouTube streaming videos would start defaulting to a standard-definition stream, which involves serving considerably smaller files. Users can still manually select a high-res stream if they want to. The policy began in Europe last week, but now it has expanded worldwide with no projected end in sight. According to YouTube, HD streams take up 5 Mbps, while the typical SD stream requires just 1.1 Mbps.

Netflix has made a similar adjustment, promising to reduce the bitrate of its streams in Europe in order to cut its network usage by 25 percent. The notoriously secretive company isn’t sharing exactly how much of a surge it has seen during the coronavirus outbreak, but it is open to expanding this program beyond Europe if it becomes necessary.

Carriers begin suspending internet data caps during coronavirus

  Carriers begin suspending internet data caps during coronavirus AT&T and Comcast are the first to offer additional help.Their decisions come as Free Press called on internet service providers to "respond to the national-health emergency by waiving key broadband costs for those hit hard by COVID-19.

Other companies have gotten in on the initiatives to clear the internet lanes. Xbox has asked its developers to distribute large game updates during a four-hour window in the middle of the night so those large downloads don’t cause undue network stress. Sony says it’s delaying game downloads for the same reason. Both companies, however, promise that these adjustments will help keep online play humming.

Mobile providers in the US have reported increases in usage, but don’t seem particularly worried about overall capacity. In its latest COVID-19 update, T-Mobile said, “As people practice social distancing and adjust to working and learning from home, T-Mobile has seen shifts in the way they’re using the network. While overall data traffic is higher, the overall contribution to total network loading has been relatively minor.”

Verizon has added 15 GB of LTE hotspot usage to almost all of its smartphone plans, including prepaid users.

AT&T is suspending broadband data caps for home internet customers due to coronavirus

  AT&T is suspending broadband data caps for home internet customers due to coronavirus To alleviate new work-from-home policies taking effectAs it stands, some AT&T home internet customers, not to be confused with those who subscribe to an AT&T mobile data plan, have plans that cap the amount of monthly data they can use with devices like laptops, game consoles, smart TVs, and other devices. Those caps can range from 150GB to 1TB, Motherboard says. And going over the cap can result in fees as high as $10 for every 50GB over the limit.

Sprint says its voice and messaging services have experienced particularly sharp usage spikes of approximately 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Uncertainty looms over all of these initiatives, however. As FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, told the New York Times, “We just don’t know. What is sufficient bandwidth for a couple of home computers for a husband and wife may not be sufficient when you add students who are going to class all day long operating from home.”

It’s unclear when exactly network usage will peak. And while many experts remain confident that the general internet infrastructure can handle the surge, the last bit connecting it to you home could trip you up. The “last mile” internet often relies on old infrastructure based on cable that wasn’t necessarily designed for the internet, but rather TV. Even if the signal makes it into the house, consumer-grade routers may find themselves taxed with multiple heavy users working at the same time. Your internet may work just fine when you’re streaming Netflix, but when adults try to work and kids are homeschooling, the simultaneous strain can take a toll.

18 Thriller TV Shows on Netflix That Will Keep You Deep in Suspense

  18 Thriller TV Shows on Netflix That Will Keep You Deep in Suspense Between shocking murders, unhinged antiheroes, and dark reveals, there's nothing like a classic bingeable TV thriller on Netflix.

Just because the infrastructure still works, that doesn’t mean that individual services and providers are clear of potential problems due to high usage. while the general internet may work just fine, specific sites and apps can still get crushed.

Facebook has released some of its numbers regarding usage and the stats are impressive. The company says that messaging traffic has increased by 50 percent since the start of the crisis in some hard-hit areas. Video chatting through Messenger and Whatsapp has reportedly doubled. 

News to stay informed. Advice to stay safe.
Click here for complete coronavirus coverage from Microsoft News

Not every company is Facebook, however. In fact some crucial sites and apps, like those that handle unemployment requests from people who are out of work, have reportedly started to buckle under the onslaught of new users and aging backend databases that haven’t yet made the move to the cloud.

For now, major internet providers, at least in the US, seem confident they can handle the loads. Comcast has announced that it will lift its data caps for two months in order to give people with increased usage room to work and stream. Cox has automatically upgraded users with its 30 Mbps plans to 50 Mbps. Spectrum has offered its large network of public Wi-Fi hotspots typically reserved for subscribers to the public.

Netflix urged to slow streaming to save internet

  Netflix urged to slow streaming to save internet The European Union is urging Netflix and other streaming platforms to stop showing video in high definition to prevent the internet from breaking under the strain of unprecedented usage due to the coronavirus pandemic. © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images With so many countries on forced lockdowns to fight the spread of the virus, hundreds of millions working from home and even more children out of school, EU officials are concerned about the huge strain on internet bandwidth.

Things may change drastically going forward, but for now, it looks like those streaming binges will continue to keep us company during social distancing.

Provided by photo services 

Verizon will provide free internet to students in Los Angeles .
Verizon will provide free internet access to all students who need it in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the company announced today. This could help as many as 100,000 students continue to learn while schools are closed. Reliable internet access is critical during this pandemic, but Verizon (Engadget's parent company) is a little late to step up. Spectrum is offering free internet installation and service to students and their families. Comcast is making its Internet Essentials program free for new, qualifying customers for 60 days, and it is boosting broadband speeds for existing Internet Essentials customers. AT&T has removed data usage caps.

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks
usr: 0
This is interesting!