Powering Critical Connectivity During Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has proven the indispensable role digital connectivity plays in today’s world. And this connectivity is dependent on electricity to power the network equipment and devices we use to stay connected. Not only do our communications networks provide high priority service to first responders, emergency services and healthcare providers, but telework, telelearning, e-commerce and digital conferencing have become the primary methods for communities under social distancing and shelter-in-place restrictions to communicate and share information.
Telecom carriers and broadband service providers worldwide have recognized the critical role they fill. They are undertaking to supply maximal network capacity, connectivity and security to meet urgent challenges, monitoring usage and making modifications and enhancements for continuous service. Not only are they doing everything they can to ensure reliable, rapid, secure and full bandwidth communications, adjusting network resources to handle spikes and shifts in demand, but many connectivity providers are also waiving charges, increasing speeds, lifting data caps and offering a variety of free services to low-income customers, students and other consumers with needs. The FCC has commended the 390 carriers and broadband providers in the U.S. who joined their pledge to “Keep Americans Connected.” Providers are sharing spectrum to give customers better coverage and coming up with new services to entertain and educate the many people confined at home.
Today’s sophisticated digital communication technologies depend on a complex mix of equipment, software, data services and skilled personnel. But none of these will operate without reliable electricity to power the networks and the devices. Even during COVID-19, the need to carry out planned maintenance as prevention of wildfires forced PG&E in Northern California to cut power to some customers who were left not only without lights and refrigeration, but without wireless phone and internet service. While the International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported that confinement measures around the world caused on average a 15 percent drop in demand for electricity, mostly due to restrictions on commerce and industry, in contrast AT&T has reported an increase in core network traffic of 27 percent during the current pandemic. Continuity plans that mitigate service disruptions, secure critical infrastructure and physical and network access points must also provide for backup power to ensure that these critical networks and equipment be always available.
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