With the coronavirus pandemic suspending school and work hours, most of us are now spending our days at home to keep safe from the virus. With us keeping to ourselves and following social distancing measures, everyone’s favorite hobby for the past couple of days has been surfing the internet.

However, if you have been surfing the web or watching videos on YouTube lately, you may have noticed that internet speeds have been slowing down as we go further along the quarantine period.

According to Social Weather Stations, 46% of adult Filipinos use the internet on a daily basis. On the other hand, Statista reports that 25% of the Philippines’ 109 million population use the internet through their mobile phones. By 2023, it’s expected to grow even further to 50%. With that many people using the internet all at once, it’s no surprise that we are getting random slowdowns every once in a while.

Due to the COVID-19 community quarantine, millions of Filipinos are now working from home or simply passing the time binge-watching shows on Netflix. This influx has caused a surge of “unprecedented usage”, which our current infrastructure is struggling to handle.

Increasing usage of streaming services

This strain on the internet is primarily caused by the overwhelming usage of video streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.

“So many people are watching and downloading videos at the same time. Hindi na kaya ng infrastraktura natin,” Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said in an interview with DZMM last March 20.

According to a 2019 report from Sandvine, an American networking equipment company, video material is the main traffic source of the internet, accounting for more than 60% of data delivered to consumers. Netflix accounts for around 12% of the total traffic, while Google accounts for another 12%, primarily driven by YouTube usage.

Related: How to get the FREE PLDT SpeedBoost

High-speed infrastructure project delayed

DICT Undersecretary Rio also mentioned in his interview that the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, an “ultra-high speed information highway” project plotted to be finished by the first quarter of this year, has not yet been completed. Had it been finished earlier, it could have helped alleviate the current strain on the Philippines’ internet service providers.

Announced last November 2017, the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure project was initiated by the government in partnership with Facebook, to increase bandwidth while lowering internet costs. This project involves building a submarine cable system with two landing stations on the east and west coast of Luzon.

Once completed, the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure can provide a bandwidth equivalent of over 2 million megabits per second. It will then be used to power initiatives like the National Government Portal and free internet access to the public.

What can we do about it?

While the country awaits the completion of the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, there are still many things that we can do to help prevent the collapse of the internet during the lockdown. One of which is lowering our data traffic from video content, like putting a cap on our daily streaming usage or lowering video quality.

“To secure internet access for all, let’s #SwitchtoStandard definition when HD is not necessary,” European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a tweet after a conversation with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings about lowering video streaming quality to protect the internet. Apple, Disney+, Amazon, and YouTube also throttled streaming quality shortly after.

With our smart and considerate use of the internet during the enhanced community quarantine, all of us can still access the internet — whether for work, for entertainment, or staying updated with the virus outbreak — all in the comfort of our own homes.

Is your internet slower than usual? Let us know in the comments section.

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