YARMOUTH PORT — The spike in the number of people working, studying and spending leisure time at home has raised concerns about whether their internet service will be able to handle the increase in traffic, but those familiar with the Cape’s networks say not to be alarmed.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,” said Arthur Gaylord, co-founder of OpenCape, a Barnstable-based nonprofit technology company that owns and operates the region’s fiber-optic network. “We have much bigger things to worry about.”
The internet as a whole will not have any problems dealing with the change in traffic patterns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Gaylord said. Some services, such as online tools for teaching, might not have enough servers to support them right now, but that could change, he said.
In general, users shouldn’t see a problem, said Gaylord, who also is former director of Computer and Information Services at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Already, there is capacity for when everyone is at home during the holidays streaming videos or playing games, he said. This is the same thing, except it is going on longer, he said.
“It is built to handle these high levels of traffic,” he said.
For those who typically have problems working from home due to slow internet speeds, Gaylord said it depends on what connection they have. If people have a DSL or digital subscriber line, to connect to the internet, those might be a bit slower than a cable connection, he said.
But for the most part, if people are able to stream Netflix, they should be able to do what they need for work, Gaylord said, though they might need to ask their children to stop playing games for a bit.
If a company doesn’t have enough servers, that might bog down access, Gaylord said. But most servers on the cloud can easily expand if needed, he said.
Daniel Curtis, owner of Osterville Wifi & Smart Home, has seen an increase in inquiries of late.
“We definitely have seen an uptick in business and need for better Wi-Fi,” Curtis said. “More people and kids are working from home.”
Often, a home will have a modem and router in one location, and as users move farther from them, their connection gets weaker, making for many frustrated family members, Curtis said. Even if the house has fast internet bandwidth, it’s not typically useful unless one’s device is located right next to the modem, he said.
If there are more people at home and more devices online, it can be taxing for the internet speeds coming in, Curtis said.
Marc Goodman, a spokesman for Comcast, said the network “has the capacity to handle spikes and shifts and usage patterns.”
The company is offering qualified low-income customers two months of free internet and is increasing the speed of the Internet Essentials program to meet the extra demand, Goodman said.
OpenCape is offering existing customers free bandwidth upgrades.
“We are enabling the network so that it is not slowing down, not bogging down,” OpenCape CEO Steven Johnston said.
Upping the bandwidth will allow businesses to accommodate remote work and telemeetings, hospitals to implement screening and assessment applications, schools to offer distance learning for students and municipalities to provide enhanced communications to aid in public safety, Johnston said.
More than a dozen companies, local schools, police and fire stations and coworking spaces have elected to increase their bandwidth, Johnston said.
Despite being proactive in asking for increased bandwidth, CapeSpace, a coworking office located in Hyannis and Mashpee, has not seen an increase in customers, according to company president Robbin Orbison.
The two locations will remain open for the time being, Orbison said, with increased cleaning and social distancing guidelines enforced.
“There are a lot of people who really can’t work at home,” Orbison said. “A lot of it is because they don’t have the connectivity.”
Chatham Works, which offers a gym in addition to coworking space, has decided to close. The business is the only place in town connected to the OpenCape fiber-optic network.
“It was a really hard decision to close down,” said Lindsay Bierwirth, who co-owns Chatham Works with her husband, Fred. But, she said, they both wanted to promote social distancing.
Many people can be found practicing social distancing while sitting in cars outside local libraries, taking advantage of free Wi-Fi.
Jonathan Bourne Public Library is connected to OpenCape and has increased its bandwidth, making for a strong Wi-Fi connection in the parking lot, according to Patrick Marshall, the library’s director.
Although Eastham Public Library and Snow Library in Orleans typically see an increase in users during the summer, staff have noticed people taking advantage of their internet connections throughout the day.
“Our Wi-Fi is on 24/7, so people can sit in the parking lot anytime and use it,” said Tavi Prugno, director of the Snow Library in Orleans. In recent days, Prugno said, he hasn’t seen an uptick of people using it.
At Sandwich Public Library, however, staff have noticed the internet being sluggish due to the demand on the system, said Joanne Lamothe, the library director. Regardless, she noted the Wi-Fi does extend into the parking lot and is available for anyone to use.
Follow Beth Treffeisen on Twitter: @Btreffeisencct.