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Akamai Looks To Ease Internet Traffic Soaring Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

Akamai's networks operations control center, in Cambridge (Courtesy)
Akamai's networks operations control center, in Cambridge (Courtesy)

Internet traffic is surging thanks to the coronavirus, as millions of people work from home or go to school online during the pandemic.

"We're seeing historic traffic levels and traffic growth right now on behalf of our customers pretty much now across the board," said Tom Leighton, the CEO of Akamai Technologies.

The Cambridge-based tech company supports many major websites and has thousands of servers around the world.

Leighton said peak traffic has doubled on the company's platforms the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.

So, can the internet handle all of this traffic?

Yes, Leighton said. But the internet is being strained right now. The surging traffic is also slowing things down. Average download speeds over broadband and mobile have decreased in the U.S. in recent weeks, according to Ookla, which tests internet speeds.

The strain on the internet has moved regulators, content providers and carriers to take steps to lighten the load.

YouTube recently lowered its video quality worldwide after European regulators asked various video streaming companies to reduce their bandwidth usage.

Akamai is now slowing down video game downloads during peak times to help manage all the congestion on the internet. The company will allow faster video game downloads late at night.

According to Leighton, most of the internet traffic surge is coming from streaming services and video games.

"It's very rich content. It takes a lot of traffic to produce that video in the home or get that new gaming software update into the home," Leighton said.

A software update for a video game can generate almost the same amount of traffic as 30,000 web pages, according to Akamai.

And as the coronavirus outbreak continues and people continue to stay home, Leighton expects to see a lot more traffic associated with entertainment services.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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