Coronavirus : the Internet holds, despite the request for containment

Major online services have announced a reduction in speed to avoid congestion, more under political pressure and precaution by immediate necessity.

Is the Internet threatened with saturation by confined teleworkers and idle students glued to online videos? ? To believe the ads of some of the leading distributors of online videos, one is tempted to believe. In the space of a few days, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, Twitch, Apple TV, Canal+, TikTok and Netflix have announced measures to ensure that data consumed by their users takes up less space in the pipes of the European Net and avoid saturation. Disney video service + even postponed its release in France to 7 April rather than 24 mars, "At the request of the government".

The latter, indeed, put the major providers of Internet content under pressure, in unison with the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton. On his Twitter account, the 18 mars, the senior official referred to a telephone discussion with the CEO of Netflix and instructed him "Switch to standard definition when HD is not needed". The next day, in a press release, State Secretary to digital, Cédric O, called "Content providers that consume a lot of bandwidth to take appropriate measures to limit the consumption of their services".

A yet robust Internet

However, if this is a finding shared unanimously by all the "supporters" of the network, is that the French and European Internet is not threatened in the short term clutter.

The first week of confinement was a test and it was passed : the network was able to absorb the significant increase in traffic in private. at Orange, explains that one related to telework (email, VPN, Sending files) was multiplied by seven, that videoconferencing has been doubled and the WhatsApp traffic has increased fivefold. SFR, it claims to have found a doubling of traffic to Netflix, last week.

corroborated by figures what is observed on some Internet nodes, where different actors of the network to connect. In Amsterdam node, one of the largest in the world, we notice an increase in 20 % compared to the traffic for the month of February. But it is far, far from the maximum allowed. Within this network node, the total capacity, regularly reinforced, is of 34,6 terabits per second : the maximum peak observed in recent days took place on Sunday 22 mars, at 7,8 Tbits/s.

"These are things that our network can absorb, we don't have to worry about our customers ", we confirm at Orange. "I have all the operators in France in my data center, and not one today expressed its serious saturation in or were overloaded with traffic. There is a significant increase, sometimes important, but no one declares saturation ", estime Sami Slim, Deputy Director of Telehouse, a Parisian business where several hundred companies to interconnect the Internet.

On the network that contained a diffuser knows, "The peak of consumption remains three times higher than the average consumption of the day", sign that the network takes the shock, decrypts Clement Cavadore, network expert and also vice-president of the main French Internet node.

Anticipating the unknown

How then to explain the concern of the access providers which motivated their activism so that the public authorities demand a reduced flow from the content providers ?

First, further increase in the load supporting, access providers are seeing an evolution in traffic : the evening peak connection does not change much, but the activity is sustained throughout the day, according to several operators interviewed. "Usually, we have growth curves of predictable traffic, where one enters the unknown. We wanted to put the odds on our side. We had Italian figures, where there is strong growth and daily. We wanted to guard against it. The best solution, is that content providers limit traffic ", explains Jean-Paul Arzel, Network Director at Bouygues Telecom.

In all operators, it points the need to anticipate the unknown and hold as long as the crisis will require, with very limited resources in terms of maintenance. “There was a concern expressed by the operators on their ability to maintain their network in the medium term, explains Sébastien Soriano, President of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Postal (ARCEP), the network policeman. The experience feedback in other countries show that there may be peaks on new uses. It's these exceptional peaks that everyone dreads. »

In all operators, we thus welcomes the decision of the great content to limit their speed providers, allowing to gain in "Flexibility in day-to-day management". The government will also put grease in the wheels, bringing together operators and ISPs content to fit the situation and, if necessary, "Pass messages", explains M. Soriano.

What about net neutrality ?

Does it lead to breaches in Net Neutrality, guaranteed by law and which wants Internet service providers to treat all data flows fairly ? This is what some fear. “There is a temptation to seize this moment of possible overheating of networks to make an exception to the principle of Net neutrality, and why not after the crisis to continue, which is a danger for the digital world ”, TACI You Slim.

"The current situation must not be used as an excuse for shortcuts that we would regret later. Nobody wants to undermine net neutrality, I didn't hear that from the operators ", tempers Sébastien Soriano, who prefers to highlight the particularity of the crisis in France.

"When operators tell us they have capacity constraints, normally we tell them that we must increase. More, short term, operators cannot double their capacity overnight ! », further specifies M. Soriano, who recalled that the European framework on net neutrality just can limit some flows to deal with congestion. Especially since, for him, " today, the big ones [content providers] have a particular moral responsibility in view of the volume of traffic '.


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