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ISPs pledge continued service as internet infrastructure feels the pressure

24 Mar 2020

Internet service providers (ISPs) are preparing to bolster infrastructure and ramp up services as New Zealand readies itself for alert level 4 and lockdown beginning on Wednesday night.

ISPs will remain open as an essential service in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, but with shift work, staggered breaks and social and physical distancing becoming the norm, an enormous challenge awaits.

Some ISPs have already reported a huge increase in daytime, home-based internet usage as New Zealanders move their work into their living rooms, studies and spare rooms.

Chorus, which operates wholesale fixed line broadband infrastructure across the country, has reported daytime data consumption is seeing a massive increase. However, consumption on their service is currently lower than the usual 9pm busy hour.

The midday traffic on the Chorus network on March 24 reached 1.65Tbps.

This is a 65% increase on the baseline level of a week ago and up from 1.37Tbps from the day before.

The increase seemingly reflects the growth in the number of people now remote working and that the fact that school children are online at home.

The spike on Monday the 23rd at 2.40pm reflects the increase in traffic on the network as people watched the live stream of the Prime Minister’s announcement.

The ISP has also announced their commitment to attending to faults as soon as possible, and to continue to carry out connections throughout the lockdown.

“Our first priority is protecting the health and safety of the community and of those working on our behalf,” says Chorus CEO JB Rousselot.

“Chorus provides strategically critical infrastructure that will be absolutely essential to New Zealand during this time, and we are very aware of the need to keep as many people as possible connected.

“Given our status as a lifeline, we will prioritise repairing faults as quickly as possible, and connecting locations where no other form of fixed line connectivity is available.

“We will continue to perform connections and upgrades in locations that already have a fixed line connection, but only if field resources are available,” says Rousselot.

The company has also pledged to provide their services with caution, putting in place protections for isolating customers and their own staff.

“We have put a number of controls in place to identify situations where customers may be self-isolating, and any technicians who display any signs of illness are stood down and put into self-isolation immediately, along with their close contacts,” says Rousselot.

“We also have detailed health and safety requirements in place for use on occasions where faults occur at homes where individuals are ill or self-isolating.

“I would like to thank our field force for their immense commitment during a very difficult time, recognising the importance of the work they do for all New Zealanders,” he said.

The announcement from Chorus comes as most ISPs in the country announce new plans and measures to deal with COVID-19.

Broadband data caps have largely been scrapped, as well as implementing a freeze on COVID-19 related disconnections or late fees.

Spark has rolled out a discounted service for connecting New Zealanders who don’t have internet access at home, and Vodafone NZ has implemented a remote-learning plan through zero-rating Government guided education and health sites to support responses to COVID-19.