As social distancing measures continue, daily necessities such as maintaining a livelihood, accessing education, or obtaining critical services are being forced online. My wife and I are seeing this unfold personally as we work from home and attempt to help our 7- and 13-year-old navigate distance learning.

In our “new normal,” our consumption of online services is growing. Internet access is becoming increasingly vital to our health, safety, economic, and societal survival. And it’s not just us. Heroes and first responders, hospitals, schools, governments, workers, businesses, and our society-at-large are relying on the internet more than ever.

The more our society remains apart, the more we all need to be connected.

Service Providers Play an Important Role

With more people working from home, more children distance learning, and more parents seeking to keep their families entertained, global internet traffic has reached a new threshold. At Cisco, we’re seeing this firsthand.

Following stay-at-home mandates, traffic at major public peering exchanges increased 24% in Asia-Pacific, 20% in Europe, and 18.5% in the Americas. Here is a more specific breakdown by country:

Our service provider customers and partners have been doing a great job to manage the spikes in network traffic and load balance the shift in ‘peak’ online hours accordingly. They are vital to helping people stay safe and healthy, keeping them connected to their families, providing them access to important services, and supporting their jobs and education.

Service Provider Roundtable

Earlier this week, I hosted a virtual press and industry analyst roundtable with some leading providers of connectivity, social networking, and telehealth services.  The panel included:

  • Jason Porter, SVP, AT&T FirstNet
  • Kevin Hart, EVP/ Chief Product and Technology Officer, Cox Communications
  • Dan Rabinovitsj, VP Connectivity, Facebook
  • Andrés Irlando, SVP/President, Public Sector and Verizon Connect at Verizon
  • Todd Leach, VP/CIO University of Texas, Galveston Medical Branch
  • Mike King, MS, CHCIO Director University of Texas, Galveston Medical Branch

During the one-hour event, we explored how these big companies are supporting healthcare providers and first responders during this global pandemic. We also talked about critical infrastructure and how it’s driving changes in tele-health developed by the University of Texas, Galveston. Here are a few highlights from our panelists as they shared what’s happening on their networks:

Todd Leach, University of Texas Galveston Medical Branch: “We were dealing with critical patients while caring for the rest of the population. We had to scramble pretty quickly to transition over to telehealth. I can’t imagine what we would have done without having this technology.”

Kevin Hart, Cox: “Over the last two months, we’ve had a 15%-20% increase in traffic to our downstream network, and a 35%-40% increase in our upstream traffic… The peak usage window has moved from 9:00 p.m. on weekends to 2:00 – 3:00 p.m. during the weekday.”

Dan Rabinovitsj, Facebook: “People use our platform to stay connected. Messaging on all of our platforms is up 50%. In some of our markets, we’ve seen 1000% increases in video calling, video messaging—unprecedented usage.”

Jason Porter, AT&T FirstNet: “COVID was the perfect test case for our response, and we proved a nation-wide public/private network was there for first-responders the whole way.”

Andres Irlando, Verizon Connect at Verizon: “It’s the first time we activated our Verizon emergency response team across the country, everything from mobile testing sites, to pop-up hospitals, emergency operations centers, quarantine sites… you name it. By and large, the macro network has performed very well during this crisis.”

Digital Divide

As the importance of the internet shifts from huge to massive, the pandemic is shining a spotlight on the realities of the digital divide—we’re seeing large gaps between developed and developing countries, as well as urban and rural areas, for example.

Despite the growing transition to digital and remote services, 3.8 billion people around the world still remain unconnected and underserved with lack of critical access to information, healthcare and education.

At Cisco, we believe connectivity is critical to create a society and economy in which all citizens can participate and thrive. According to the new “Cisco Inclusive Future Report 2020” published yesterday:

  • Only 35% of the population in developing countries has internet access, versus 80% in advanced economies.
  • Bringing the internet to those currently without it would lift 500 million people out of poverty and add $6.7 trillion to the global economy.
  • Approximately 23% of adults internationally do not know how to use the internet.

In these challenging times, the internet is more critical than ever. Businesses, governments, and institutions realize the need to invest in the networks connecting them to their customers, constituents, patients, and students. For some, that may require increased funding, government incentives, and cooperation across industries.

As we discussed on the panel, we all believe it will take the work of new and ongoing partnerships with strong commitment to make the internet more ubiquitous. As Dan at Facebook said, “No one company can do this alone.” And as Todd at UTMB put it best, “Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.” We are all in.

Did you miss the event? Check out the replay on cisco.com.



Jonathan Davidson

EVP and General Manager

Cisco Networking