It's not just the biggest broadband service providers that are seeing surges in traffic over their wireline networks right now. Midsized and smaller providers are also grappling with similar strong traffic increases as more and more cities and states impose stay-at-home orders on their citizens.
The latest example is Atlantic Broadband, the eighth-largest MSO in the US with about 875,000 homes passed in 11 states along the Atlantic seaboard. Since the COVID-19 outbreak accelerated in mid-March, the company reports that Internet traffic over its networks has climbed about 25% overall, with some areas exceeding 30% growth.
As other providers have revealed, streaming video viewing has particularly surged in Atlantic Broadband's markets. The company says its subscribers' bandwidth usage of Netflix has shot up nearly 60%, with traffic peaking as much as 80% higher than normal on some evenings.
In addition, Atlantic Broadband reports that video-on-demand (VoD) usage has risen by 50% over the last three weeks. Further, overall usage on the company's video platforms has risen not only during the typical peak period of primetime, but also throughout the day, with those peaks extending for longer stretches of time.
Company officials say they expect these heightened usage levels to continue while business and residential customers remain at home, as the need for educational, work and entertainment resources remains high. Not surprisingly, the surges in network utilization increases have generally followed the timing of the stay-at-home orders that have been issued by various state governors, with such orders now in effect in ten of the 11 states where the company operates.
With network engineers monitoring traffic at the company's network operations centers in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, Atlantic Broadband officials insist that their networks still have ample capacity to meet the current broadband demand. But they note that they have the ability to add more capacity if needed.
Meanwhile, RCN, Grande Communications and Wave Broadband, which all form another midsized MSO under common leadership, are adapting to the COVID-19 crisis by making it easier for customers to stay connected. Similar to some of its bigger counterparts, the RCN/ Grande/Wave combination is offering free connectivity, deferred payments, an Internet First Program and other aid to residential and business customers affected by the virus.
Specifically, RCN, Grande and Wave are now offering:
To give free Internet and Wi-Fi service for 60 days to all qualifying low-income households, especially students in low-income households who do not already subscribe to their Internet service and who enroll in the Internet First program.
To provide the Internet First program for families and students in low-income households, which features 25 Mbit/s Internet service for $9.95 per month and is available to all eligible new residential customers who do not currently have RCN, Grande or Wave service. Installation fees will be waived for eligible students and new customers.
Not to terminate service to any residential or business customer because of their inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Customers can reach out to make special arrangements to keep their services active.
To waive any late fees that any residential or small business customer might normally incur because of economic circumstances related to COVID-19.
Like their Atlantic Broadband peers, RCN, Grande and Wave executives said their networks are continuing to enjoy "optimal performance" despite the surge in traffic from stay-at-home workers and students. But, also like Atlantic Broadband officials, they claim they have "significant excess capacity should usage increase" further.
Europe's largest cable operator reports that both upstream and downstream traffic have jumped since the COVID-19 pandemic hit its markets, with the upstream traffic surging 50% and the downstream up over 20%.
With tens of millions of people now sheltering at home throughout the nation, the three biggest publicly traded US MSOs all reported substantially higher broadband subscriber gains in the first quarter.
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