Experiencing a pandemic in the age of the internet has meant that in countries where home computers and Wi-Fi connections are commonplace, those on lockdown can keep themselves entertained with a few boxset marathons as they wait for the worst of the spread to pass. The increase in people in search of home entertainment has in fact been so significant that it’s affecting our internet speeds, as a surge in traffic puts immense pressure on internet providers.
The effect was first observed in China when the lockdown of a large part of Hubei province saw mobile broadband speeds plummet by almost 50 percent. The combination of streaming services, online gaming, phone calls, and video conferences as many were forced to work from home sapped broadband speeds
The same impact is now being seen in countries such as the UK and America, which are both currently under extensive lockdown guidance from their respective governments. Socializing in the modern era exists in droves online, and as citizens are forced to isolate themselves from their friends, apps such as Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are gluing many more fiercely to their phone than ever before.
The UK’s communications regulator Ofcom sent out advice this week in an effort to help internet users stuck at home combat the struggling connection. Advice ranged from the best position for your router to explaining how turning on your microwave can impact your signal strength.
In America, download times for videos and documents went up considerably as sluggish broadband speeds (down 4.9 percent according to Ookla) were brought on by a surge in traffic. Some companies such as PlayStation have even capped the speed at which games can be downloaded in an effort to counteract the rise in demand.
European regulators have also put pressure on entertainment websites such as Netflix and YouTube to make their video files smaller and reduce their streaming qualities from high to standard definition so that they don’t require as much bandwidth to download or stream. Bad news for anyone planning the immersive experience of viewing David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II in dazzling 4K resolution while in the bath.