Metro Atlanta Internet usage up 30 percent in pandemic, ISPs say

Comcast says Internet usage is up 32% in metro Atlanta as area shelters in place during COVID-19 spread.

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Comcast says Internet usage is up 32% in metro Atlanta as area shelters in place during COVID-19 spread.

Some of metro Atlanta's largest Internet providers — Comcast, AT&T and EarthLink — say online data usage has surged by double digits as the area deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

Since residents began sheltering in place around mid-March, usage has risen 32% (Comcast), 26% (AT&T) and more than 30% (EarthLink) for the online giants, leaders with each said.

And peak demand has shifted from around 9 p.m. to about 7 p.m., as consumers are no longer making long commutes home from work, allowing them to stream movies, TV and games earlier than in the past.

“This is kind of an anomaly,” Jason Gumbs, a regional senior vice president for Comcast, said of the earlier peak times. “It is unique to the COVID-19 time frame. We pretty much see the same kind of traffic patterns so this is a dramatic shift.”

Internet usage has been booming as entertainment outlets such as restaurants, movie theaters and retail stores have closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and social distancing guidelines have prohibited most face-to-face interactions.

Governments and businesses across the region also have turned to the Internet for virtual meetings and school classrooms have turned to applications such as Zoom.

Leon Hounshell, chief product officer for EarthLink, said his company is seeing similar changes in peak times to Comcast, though the impact does not feel as great.

"We are seeing peak usage at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., but there is steady, higher usage throughout the day and night, making the peaks less pronounced," he said.

While AT&T does not break out its data numbers regionally, Atlanta’s usage is consistent with national figures, said Joe Chandler, a spokesman for the telecom company. AT&T said cell calls are up 29% while home phone call minutes increased 38%.

Comcast said it has seen a 49% increase in mobile data usage and web meetings up 228%.

“We are seeing usage increasing throughout the data being driven by video conferencing,” Gumbs said.