Can today’s broadband infrastructure handle social distancing?

Today the Governor of Minnesota closed schools (Mar 18-27). Last week he encourages “social distancing” for work, school and fun. SO what are people going to do? People who can will be going online – for work, school and play. Are we ready?

Chris Mitchell with Muninetworks makes some predictions on the preparedness of the networks. Best poised…

Those on fiber optic networks probably won’t notice major changes in demand. This is the easy one — it is why we have long believed that fiber optics should be the goal for the vast majority of Americans.

Most modern cable networks should be also able to handle the demand — especially on the download end. This is good because 2 out of 3 Americans with broadband gets it from a cable network. …

In the upstream direction, the cable networks will have some challenges.

Least prepared…

Fixed Wireless networks will be all over the board. Urban and advanced fixed wireless networks like Monkeybrains in San FranciscoOpen Broadband in North Carolina, and NetBlazr in Boston will probably scale just fine. But in rural areas, many fixed wireless networks were constructed without the headroom for the expected increase in demand. Some will be able to accommodate it, but many will not. …

DSL will be an unmitigated disaster in many places, especially where Frontier and Windstream are the monopoly. These networks may become unusable — though many may think of them as unusable now, congestion could so overwhelm the systems that they become entirely unusable. …

Whether on failed DSL or struggling fixed wireless networks, I think there will be insufficient capacity to productively work from home at best and in many cases, and inability to even stream content.

Satellite? Again, something many thought could not get worse will, especially with daily data caps, etc. Unlike with wired networks, the caps are probably actually necessary because the system is not designed to handle a large concurrent demand from users. It will not scale at all.

This entry was posted in Healthcare, Task Force Toolkit and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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