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New 'Dashboard' illustrates how US cable networks are coping during COVID-19 crisis

The NCTA – The Internet & Television Association has introduced a "COVID-19 Internet Dashboard" that delivers a high-level, illustrative view of how broadband networks from a cross-section of US cable operators are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused millions to work and school from home.

The dashboard, currently based on aggregated data from Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, GCI and Midco (with more to be added to the mix in the coming weeks), charts out metrics in categories such as upstream and downstream peak usage and overall network performance.

The dashboard, which provides views on a national level as well as by individual state, will be updated weekly, NCTA said.

According to the NCTA's current batch of MSO-supplied data, both downstream and upstream peak usage have climbed – peak downstream usage is up 20.1% and peak upstream usage is up 27.7% since March 1.

The NCTA's new dashboard, which will add data from more cable ops in the coming weeks, lets visitors check cable network performance nationwide and on a state-by-state basis. 
(Source: NCTA member companies)
The NCTA's new dashboard, which will add data from more cable ops in the coming weeks, lets visitors check cable network performance nationwide and on a state-by-state basis.
(Source: NCTA member companies)

With respect to network performance, data from the networks being monitored show 95.9% "normal peak usage," meaning that there's excess capacity available and no material impact on customer experience, and 0.1% "significantly elevated peak usage" that could result in reduced speeds. The NCTA said this data indicates that US cable networks are performing well so far.

The new dashboard's use of aggregated data "will allow the public and policymakers to track the growth in traffic during the pandemic and get a weekly snapshot of how cable broadband networks are performing during the pandemic," NCTA CEO Michael Powell said in a blog post, noting later that aging Wi-Fi routers and "overcrowded Wi-Fi bands" could impair broadband speeds.

He added that peak usage periods have shifted from evening hours to earlier in the day during the pandemic as more consumers work from home.

"Regardless of how peak hours may shift, cable broadband networks continue to offer robust performance and cable ISPs are working hard to ensure that the network continues to perform well even with these changes in patterns and increases in usage," Powell added.

The NCTA dashboard was introduced the day after FCC officials said there are no imminent plans to initiate network performance status reports but instead encouraged service providers to relay that data, according to Cablefax.

Several US broadband service providers are already doing that. Comcast, for example, provided an update on network performance and trends Monday, noting that peak network traffic on its network is up 32% overall, and as high as 60% in some cities that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and were forced early on to enact stay-at-home orders.

The NCTA's new tool is also surfacing on the same day that President Trump hosted a call with execs from Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and Charter to discuss how their respective networks are holding up during the crisis.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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