Internet providers see increase, but say infrastructure can handle rise

Internet LAN cables are pictured in this photo illustration. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

BEMIDJI -- Regional internet service providers have noticed an upturn in traffic lately. However, officials say the system in place can handle the increase.

Staff from both the Sioux Falls-based Midco and Paul Bunyan Communications told the Pioneer that most of the traffic boosts have come during the day. For both entities, the rises have been by at least 30%.

"Typically, our traffic is peaking with the most usage between 8 o'clock and 10 o'clock at night. With this change in how people are working, there's a lot more usage during the day," said John Pederson, Midco chief technology officer. "So far, the usage is still less than what we see at night. During the day, though, it's been an increase of about 45% from what we normally see."

"We've seen a lot more video traffic throughout the day," said Steve Howard, Paul Bunyan Communications information technology and development manager. "We've seen our daytime traffic load increase by about 30 to 35%. It's a very big change."

While the increase has been noticeable, the providers say they have the infrastructure to handle more traffic.


"We have a lot of capacity and we've overbuilt capacity into our network, so we've certainly been able to handle this," Howard said. "We've always over built it, putting in more capacity than we need, because we're a growth-focused company. That's really turned out to be the benefit here, because when the surge of bandwidth came along, we could handle it."

"It's well within the capacity of our network. We engineer to handle that peak in the evening," Pederson said. "I think this drives home that this is essential. It's important to have broadband. It's not just a nice thing to have, it's a necessary thing to have."

Pederson said Midco is also working with companies that are having more of their employees working from home.

"We get calls from companies, where they previously might have had 20 people working away from the office, and now they have 120 people," Pederson said. "So, we help out where we can. It's been different for everyone."

At Paul Bunyan Communications, lobbies are now closed until further notice, but customers can still contact the office by phone, email or online chat.

Since March 20, 13 Midco Customer Experience Centers, including one in Bemidji, have temporarily closed. Midco is also encouraging more self installation by mailing or dropping off equipment. If a technician is needed, Midco will call ahead and follow distancing guidelines.

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