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Bad connection: Why home offices are slowing down work and play

Slow internet connection: Why your home office is slowing down work and play
WATCH ABOVE: If you feel like your internet is lagging lately, you're not alone. Morgan Black has more on what service companies like Telus and Shaw are doing to keep up with demand.

If you’re working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you likely know the frustration that comes with a bad internet connection.

“It’s not fun,” says Kori Wray. “Not having technology [work] properly… or the connection being spotty — especially when you have to social distance and be home.”

Wray and her husband are musicians working from home, mainly in the evening. She says there’s been technological challenges when uploading music or hosting musician sessions.

“All of a sudden the timing goes off, or they are half on the screen,” Wray says. “It’s a little bit frustrating.”

For many Canadians, this is a new reality when it comes to work. The pandemic has pushed a large part of the workforce into makeshift home offices, while many students are also learning from home.

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READ MORE: Employer still not letting you work from home? How to navigate coronavirus office upheaval

Technology expert David Papp says exponential growth of at-home internet users has led to some bad or slow connections online.

“We now have everybody accessing the internet all the time out of their houses,” he says. “It’s not just listening to online radio or streaming a movie. It’s lots of video conferences and online, internet-based communications that are very intensive.”

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That means internet users and service providers are noticing high congestion. It also doesn’t matter what website or internet tool you’re using.

READ MORE: Farts, accidental nudity, questionable art: Coronavirus work-from-home fails

“It affects everything,” Papp says. “[Social media, Slack, Netflix, etc.] is all contending for the same share of the bandwidth that’s available. None of the internet services providers could have forecast the sheer number of servers and bandwidth that they would have suddenly needed.
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“They are ramping up as much as they can, but there are limitations that we can’t go beyond. Things like fibre connections that can’t be suddenly enlarged.”

Shaw Communications’ Chima Nkemdirim says it’s been “so good, so far” for the company.

“We’re pleased with how things have been going. We’ll see how traffic increases over the next few weeks.”

It’s not just an increase in online demand. On its website, Telus says a brief Alberta-wide cellular outage was due to “network congestion.”

READ MORE: TELUS Mobility outages resolved for Alberta customers

Papp suggests that in some situations the best approach could be to “try again a little bit later” when traffic may not be as high.

The sudden scramble to help internet connections meet user demand could also mean a more flexible work environment in the future.

“I think the way people work is really going to change,” says Nkemdirim.

“Suddenly, people have discovered they can work from home. They can do video calls. Maybe they will think, ‘I don’t have to get on a plane for that business trip anymore.'”

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As for those stuck at home in the present, there’s one thing you can always rely on.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh yeah. There’s this ancient thing called a book and I can open and read it anytime,'” Wray laughs.