We’re all gradually getting used to the new normal not only of home-working, but increasingly home-schooling too. Domestic data demands are growing, whether for video conferencing or online tutorials. Consider by way of example that the number of weekly new users of corporate messaging apps such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack and WeChat Work has leapt from 1.4m at the start of this year to 6.7m (and growing) in early March (per Sensor Tower, an analytics firm). However, the question lingers: while we’re all ever-more connected, will the Internet still work?
Uncertainty seems order of the day, compounded both by hysteria and misinformation. Sure, almost everyone has an anecdotal story to tell about trouble getting online and/or patchy broadband connections, but the headline answer to the above question is simply a ‘yes’. The Internet (or the piping that underpins it) was built for peak capacity. Take the comment from Charter Communications, a US cable and internet business: “our network is built to sustain maximum capacity during peak usage, which is typically in the evenings, so a surge during the day would be well within our capacities to manage.”
Most peoples’ work needs are, of course, reassuringly straightforward. Neither the use of chat apps nor video conferencing is a bandwidth-heavy activity. Meanwhile, telecoms regulators and even politicians in some countries (such as the US) have written to their country’s principal network operators for reassurances that their capacity will not be constrained even in the event of increased streaming activity, say, for online lessons. The bigger concern from an educational point of view is that while household broadband penetration in Britain is close to 100%, in the US and some European countries (e.g. Italy) it is only around 80% (per the OECD). Poorer and/or more rural households may be especially disadvantaged.
So far, so good. One issue, however, it is important to be aware of is that increased home-working may spur a rise in cybercrime. Out of every crisis emerges opportunities for some, and there have been reported rises in both phishing and malware attacks in several geographies. It’s important to protect from viruses wherever possible.
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