How is the internet handling increased traffic during the COVID-19 crisis?

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With the current COVID-19 pandemic leading to increased demand for online services there have been concerns about the web's ability to cope.

New analysis by Fastly of traffic patterns between January and March looks at regional trends for key US states and countries around the globe that are some of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


It finds that internet quality challenges are largely related to regional policy enactments such as school closures and stay-at-home orders. Most industries are seeing upward traffic trends, with the digital publishing sector seeing the highest activity increases of those industries analysed.

The analysis shows regions heavily impacted by the pandemic are seeing traffic volumes go up, often strongly aligned with public policy announcements and policies like school closures and lockdowns. Download speeds trend down as people become homebound with school closures and shelter-in-place or lockdowns taking effect.

"Overall, the internet is in good health," says Fastly's chief architect and founder, Artur Bergman. "This is partly due to the regionality of these trends, but modern websites and applications are also better able to adapt to changing internet conditions. We are seeing the internet bring people together, whether for work, entertainment, or to get in touch with family and friends. And while there's more traffic than in previous months, the internet is resilient."

Fastly analysed industry-specific internet activity by comparing average requests per second (RPS), week-on-week, between two sets of dates: January 6, 2020, and February 16, 2020; and February 16, 2020, to March 29, 2020.

From February 16 to March 29, streaming observed an increase in average RPS week-on-week of 29.6 percent. Over the same period gaming observed an increase in average RPS week-on-week of 28.54 percent. These increases could reflect increased interest in entertainment and media content during lockdowns and social distancing.

News and digital publishing have seen the biggest increase in average RPS from February 16 to March 29 at 70.16 percent as people seek out more information on the crisis. Social media platforms saw a 40.88 percent increase in average RPS in the same period as people strive to remain connected.

Educational technology saw a sharp increase in average RPS week-on-week from February to March by 34.55 percent as more school-age children are educated from home.

You can read more on the Fastly blog.

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

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