The Internet Now More Essential than Ever in the Wake of the Health Crisis
The Internet has become an essential tool in the wake of the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Shelter-in-place measures in the region and the closing of schools have led to an increase in the residential use of Internet services and an increase in telecommuting and e-commerce.
Carlos Martínez, LACNIC CTO, highlighted the role that the Internet is playing during this health emergency and as a tool for “virtual social proximity” to counter the physical distancing measures implemented by the authorities to avoid the spread of the virus.
How can the Internet help during these health crises?
The Internet can help in multiple ways. Right now, I believe that the Internet is essential for maintaining the social distance needed to control the spread of the virus.
Telecommuting will be key to sustaining economic activity, as will e-commerce and online financial services. Without these tools, any limitation on people leaving their home would be very difficult to implement.
E-learning platforms will enable children and students to continue learning with their teachers, and streaming platforms and social networks will allow us to make a better use of our time.
Finally, one must not forget the multiple communication tools that are currently available, including videoconferencing, instant messaging and others, which will allow us to feel close to our loved ones despite being physically far away.
Is the connectivity in our region good enough to help in these situations?
Regional connectivity has greatly improved in recent years, particularly when looking at the backbones and transit for the different providers.
However, in the case of access networks, the situation is quite varied. Operators that have deployed fiber networks to the home will surely be able to face the increased demand without major problems. On the other hand, DSL access networks and certain mobile networks may perhaps suffer a little bit more.
The widespread deployment of mobile LTE networks in the region is very positive, as the cellular network will allow covering part of this aggregate demand.
Has an increase in traffic been observed in the countries of the region during the quarantine?
Different operators and several Internet exchange points have prepared reports on the status of the Internet. All of these reports mention a traffic increase of between 25% and 35%.
Has the quality of service been maintained despite the increased demand of recent days?
So far, I believe that the experience continues to be very good. There may have been some minor issues here and there but, in general, the Internet is coping quite well with this very particular situation.
Does the existence of greater traffic volumes also increase vulnerabilities? Should we be even more careful?
A major question for the future has to do with the maintenance of major networks and systems in general. Deployed networks require maintenance. Cables break, network ports and line cards grow old and need to be replaced, server discs fail, and power supplies also need to be replaced.
In a scenario in which significant restrictions on the movement of individuals and the transport of goods are common, the aging of the equipment itself may conspire against the proper functioning of the Internet in the region.
We must keep in mind that very little of the equipment used by the operators in our region is manufactured locally – most of it is imported from other regions.