Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote

Coronavirus home working: Broadband speeds plunge over 40% in these three US cities

And broadband speed tests explode across the world amid widespread lockdowns.

The coronavirus could make remote work the norm, what businesses need to know
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US broadband speeds are taking a hit in dozens of US cities, as millions of people are restricted to their homes amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, according to a new report. 

BroadbandNow, an ISP comparison service, says 88 of the 200 cities it has analyzed have seen some network degradation over the past week compared with 10 weeks prior. 

Some 27 cities have seen speed drops of 20%, while three cities – Austin, Texas, Winston Salem, North Carolina, and Oxnard, California – have experienced speeds 40% slower than before. 

As of last week, Austin was experiencing average speeds of 46Mbps, while Winston Salem averaged 41Mbps and Oxnard had an average of 44Mbps.

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

Over the past week Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime have started reducing streaming quality in the EU to alleviate the burden on the fixed and mobile networks of people forced to stay at home. 

Netflix will keep video quality at reduced levels in Europe and the UK for the next month and expects it will reduce data consumption by 25%. The company hasn't reduced video quality in North America but says it is open to requests. However, YouTube has decided to cut streaming quality globally.       

Download speeds in New York City have fallen about 24% over the period, but households still have a median speed of nearly 52Mbps, suggesting connections are faring well despite the slowdown.

On the other hand, speeds in some cities where coronavirus has been spreading rapidly haven't deteriorated. These include Los Angeles, Chicago, Brooklyn, and San Francisco.  

Broadband speed-test firm Ookla has also been tracking shifts in fixed-line and mobile broadband speeds across the world at a country level. Mean download speeds over mobile and fixed broadband on March 23 were down in the US and Canada compared with the week between March 9 and March 16. 

It's not surprising given the orders to stay home across the globe – and an increased dependence on home broadband for work and entertainment – that a lot of people have grown curious about their fixed-line and mobile broadband speeds. 

SEE: These common home appliances can dramatically slow down your internet speed

The number of tests on Ookla's Speedtest.net has been stable over the past three months, but started rapidly trending upward globally on the week beginning March 2. 

On the week beginning March 16, fixed-line broadband tests were 50% higher than March 2. However, mobile speed tests over that period only grew by about 10%. Fixed-line broadband speed tests in North America mirrored the global trend. 

ookla-fixed-test-change-north-america-031620.png

With the surge in home working, people are curious about their fixed-line and mobile broadband speeds, so testing has risen sharply.

Image: Ookla