3 min read

Better Broadband and The Future of Work

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These are unprecedented times. Streets empty, stores closed, airplanes grounded. We’ve seen it in movies, but not outside our windows. We are physically apart, but we aren’t really disconnected, are we?

The future of work will change drastically in the coming years and this global network test is giving us a glimpse.

People need to be able to do their jobs from anywhere and at any time. As we can see, the world slows down if we can’t, which raises questions.

In this post, we are going to explore three of those questions.

  1. How are people and companies responding to these new challenges of needing to work remotely?
  2. How are the changes to day-to-day life-impacting networks right now?
  3. What can we do?

Question 1: How are people and companies responding to these new challenges of needing to work from home? 

With any crisis comes a spectrum of human behavior. We’ve seen networks dish out more data to help families and we’ve seen people make a currency out of non-reusable bathroom necessities (I'll leave it at that). However, humans are resilient and adaptable species.

One obvious adaptation is the move to decentralized online work.

You’ve probably seen tons of posts on how to be productive working from home. Businesses are realizing how valuable a mobile workforce is.

This philosophical shift won’t be possible without key players stepping up to the challenge. For example, companies like Netflix will reduce streaming quality in Europe for 30 days to help with the strain on the networks so that kids can still play Fortnite while parents are able to chat with colleagues.

Similarly, companies such as Zoom and Google have made it possible to have online events, teach courses, have one-on-one meetings, do product demos, and recreate the workplace essentials all online. Even companies like Heal have given momentum to telemedicine so doctors don’t need to risk exposure by seeing patients face to face.

This all sounds great but do we have the ability to sustain all of this?

In short, for now...

We've been virtually connected for a while but we'll need future-proof networks to continue the transition into decentralized work.740x33

Question 2. How are the changes to day-to-day life impacting networks right now?

We mentioned Fortnite earlier because it increased internet traffic by nearly 70% in Italy. This begs the question, what kind of strain is all of this really putting on our networks?

To be frank, we don’t fully know, and it depends on where you are but one thing is certain, this is the biggest stress test on our networks in our lifetime.

You're probably hearing about a couple of areas getting hit the hardest right now: home networks and the companies who provide data to those home networks. The reason being, the infrastructure is usually able to predict certain times for activity spikes to better handle traffic and it’s used to certain kinds of activity.

Right now, networks are being pummeled with video conferencing, video games, online classes, streaming channels, and other activities that require a lot of data, simultaneously. Not only is more data being used per home, but more homes are sharing the same network.

One example of this can be seen in online education. Some professors have gone so far as to upgrade their home cable broadband packages to manage the amount of bandwidth it takes for something like video conferencing.

These videos and lectures are constantly transferring data packets back and forth and require no interruptions from over-congested broadband in order to work.

To be clear, there is no ominous peril coming where we use up all of the broadband in the world. There is an opportunity to build new and better broadband for more people and to create a more connected world.

That opportunity can no longer wait for us to get around to seizing it.

Question 3: What can we do? 

Luckily, a lot of work is already being done, but there will always be more to do.

One of the biggest priorities for those building fiber networks is to provide broadband to underserved people. According to a report from McKinsey, “40 percent of the global addressable adult population is still under-connected” i.e. not even on 3G data networks “or altogether offline due to inadequate coverage, affordability, or relevance”.

To put it another way, billions of people are not yet connected and don’t have access to the same opportunities, information, and careers that others do.

This problem has not gone unnoticed.

The FCC has created funds like the RDOF, which has pledged $20.4 billion over the next 10 years, to help combat this digital divide in rural America. Similarly, on March 13, 2020, the FCC launched the Keep Americans Connected Pledge as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, who fronts the bill is not the only hurdle.

There is a need to rethink how we handle building networks. Together, we need to focus on using digital tools to produce smarter designs, manage data, and collaborate constantly.

The last point is key. Crisis brings out human ingenuity and creativity. This is an opportunity to put the brightest minds together to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

The future of work in some capacity or another will transition more intentionally to being online. There may be growing pains and networks may get strained if we aren’t smart about it but there are people, businesses, and governments stepping up to form partnerships and help bring better networks to more people. If we do this right, more people can get quality education, more people can solve the world’s problems, and more people can contribute to the global economy.

If there has ever been a time to act and to build better networks together, it’s now.

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