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Internet use surges as families stay home

March 27, 2020 Digital Media Exclusive

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As people retreat into their homes, they are using technology at a record pace.

Allen Hassler, general manager for Armstrong, said data is being consumed at levels not seen before by the Butler-based cable company. In fact, Hassler said, the company has seen data usage double in just the past week.

“Our peak usage used to occur in the evening,” Hassler said. “What we're seeing now is that peak time has started to shift a little more toward the mid-day.”

Armstrong spokesman Dave Wittman said internet providers everywhere are experiencing massive amounts of usage, and Armstrong is no exception.

“High-usage customers are in excess of one terabyte a week,” Wittman said.

However, Wittman said Armstrong is in a position to handle the excess workload. He said the company's infrastructure is solid, and the engineers are focused on alleviating any points in the network that might be experiencing congestion.

“We continually invest in our infrastructure,” Wittman said. “We're always trying to stay well ahead of the curve.

Family screen time

One Butler family said they are using more internet than they ever have.

A family of four, Christina and Kris May and their children, Kayce and Braylon, have definitely seen their screen time increase over the past week.

Christina said she has been away from her work at Beacon Hotel, but as the administrator for the business's Facebook page, she continues to manage the page from home.

She said she has also kept busy with housework and spent a lot of time clearing out the garage, which remained largely unpacked from the family's move last year.

Her husband, Kris, continues working at XTO Energy because the business is considered “essential.”

“His screen time and TV time have gone up a lot more too,” Christina said.

A recent graduate of Texas State University, Kayce May earned her degree in political science.

The 2019 college grad has spent most of her days at home looking into master's degree programs, but she also works full-time at GNC in Cranberry Township, which is deemed essential because the store sells vitamins and dietary supplements.

Kayce said her search hasn't been hindered by her time at home or through the primary use of internet. She said the internet is likely the way she would have applied to programs and gathered information anyway.

“It hasn't been too tedious at all,” she said.

Lessons at home

Meanwhile, little brother Braylon has been busy with schoolwork during his time off from school.

“They give us three day's worth of assignments at a time,” the eighth-grade Butler Intermediate High School student said.

Braylon tackles his schoolwork at home similar to the way he does at school. He said one class that did get a little easier was home economics, which requires him to understand kitchen appliances and keep a food journal.

Christina said Braylon has been learning above expectation in that area too.

“He's also learning how to cook, even though that's not required. He's learning how to do his own laundry and clean,” she said.

As he winds down from schoolwork, Braylon said he tried to go on walks, jogs and other activities to appease his athletic nature. He said working out in a way that stays away from people is difficult, and he misses his friends and teachers.

“I haven't had a teacher to teach me what I'm actually doing. I miss the social interaction at school,” Braylon said. “It's crazy being locked up in here.”

Plugged in

As the family winds down from their tasks throughout the day, they find ways to recreate inside as well. They watch movies, play games, listen to music and try to reach out to friends and family, often times through technology and the internet.

“I think we're plugged into the TV a little more than we'd like to be,” Kayce said. “I think we are all enjoying the family time aspect of everything in that same parallel of being bundled up together, we're all tired of being in the same spot.”

Families like the Mays have the gear and the knowledge to make technology work for them in a time where people are asked to “Stay calm. Stay home. Stay safe” by Gov. Tom Wolf's emergency order.

Upstream use

Hassler said this diverse use of technology increases traffic in more ways than one.

“The other thing we're seeing is much more upstream use,” Hassler said.

People are moving data “upstream” if they are uploading, which commonly occurs when streaming and playing video games because your device is sending data collected from your device to others.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Armstrong has removed some restrictions and limitations on its data plans, and is continuing to evaluate the practices taken by various online services like Netflix and Youtube.

Wittman said as much as people think of data as an abstract principle, there are ultimate limits. He said he likes to use the example of everyone tuning into a video stream of the Superbowl at the same time.

“You would have problems,” he said. “It would not function well.”

While there are limits, Wittman said Armstrong is equipped to handle the extra stress.

“The network is continuing to perform so people can do all the things they need to do from home, which is work, school, telehealth, etc., etc.,” he said.

For the latest information on how Armstrong is responding to the coronavirus situation, customers can visit ArmstrongOneWire.com/COVID-19.

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Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.