Upload demand up, download demand down during covid-19 quarantine, report says

18 August 2020 by Steve Blum
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Upstream traffic growth openvault 2q2020

The covid–19 emergency buried the tired argument that consumers want fast download speeds to watch video and don’t need, or care about, fast upload speeds. If the flood of anecdotal reports about online classes freezing and telework grinding to a halt as upstream bandwidth gridlocked wasn’t convincing enough, a report published by a broadband data consultancy might finally do the trick.

OpenVault just published its network analysis for the second quarter of 2020, the first full quarter under covid–19 restrictions. It found that the need for upload speed jumped – largely due to video conferencing – even as downstream demand dipped…

In contrast to quarter-over- quarter declines in downstream usage, upstream consumption was up 5.3% in 2Q20, when compared with 1Q20. It is likely that this reflects increased use of videoconferencing as a business, educational and lifestyle tool…

The trends of higher demand for bandwidth consumption and faster speeds appear to be forming that new broadband normal…As more people work and learn from home, the demand for upstream bandwidth will continue to multiply. Two-way video communication for videoconferencing and remote learning is helping drive this surge in upstream bandwidth demand. This demand spiked in 2Q20, growing by 56% over 2Q19.

The stats confirmed what a handful of California senators told the author of an industry-backed effort to keep California’s broadband standard at a ridiculous level of 6 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds.

“There are people, and the kids, who either totally lack Internet access or have very slow…or just people who have what would be considered normal Internet service and it’s still terrible”, senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) said during a committee hearing to consider assembly bill 570, carried by assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D – Yolo).

The 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps standard in the bill was subsequently raised a bit, to 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up, but with a catch. Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Frontier want to make sure they’re the only Internet service providers that get taxpayer subsidies that support those still slow speeds, so AB 570 was amended to give them the right to claim for themselves any projects proposed by independents, and the money that goes with it. This right of the first night would effectively lock out competition and lock in their monopoly grip on Californians’ broadband service.

Keeping California’s broadband speed limit low suits business models that rely on extracting monopoly profits from decaying rural telephone systems while directing investment to high income communities. What we need, though, is modern broadband infrastructure in every community. That’s why senate bill 1130, authored by senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Los Angeles) sets 25 Mbps as the minimum acceptable broadband speed for upload and download use.

Both bills are still alive and moving in Sacramento. Key decisions are due the end of next week, just ten days before California’s 2020 legislative session ends.