Comcast: Internet usage spiked in 2020 as working from home doubled

A report released today by Comcast details the sharp upswing in Internet usage during the ongoing pandemic.

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Overall Internet traffic on Comcast’s network spiked substantially at the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S. in March 2020, but normalized over the subsequent months, according to a report released today by the internet service provider.

As the largest individual home ISP in the U.S., Comcast’s data on Internet usage represents a useful snapshot into overall home connectivity during the pandemic.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans--62%--reported working from home at some point during the current crisis, double the figures for the previous March, the report found. And 93% of households with school-age children reported that those children engaged in distance learning.

Yet the overall traffic spike on Comcast’s network was relatively modest compared to what might have been predicted at the outset of the COVID era in the U.S. Peak upstream traffic rose by 56% percent compared to the previous year, Comcast said, and downstream traffic increased by 38%, which reflects the increasing use of online video regardless of pandemic conditions.

Indeed, video content’s share of overall Internet traffic on Comcast’s network actually dipped slightly in 2020, down from 73% in 2019 to 71% in 2020. Despite what might have been predicted to be an enormous spike in videoconferencing use, the Zooms and Skypes of the world still accounted for less than 5% of all traffic. In short, entertainment streaming still accounted for the overwhelming majority of Internet traffic, despite the rise of videoconferencing.

Other kinds of traffic rose as well, of course. Total data used for online gaming downloads increased by between 20% and 80% in different areas, Comcast reported, and, for the first time ever, total DNS lookups topped 1 trillion per day.

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