Download speeds in Denver and Littleton lag under the strain of increased internet traffic

If residential broadband networks crash or slow to a crawl, then the push to have adults work from home and students learn from home will become a lot more complicated. And now that Colorado has joined other states in ordering residents to shelter in place, the strain on the internet is only going to grow.

So are the state’s networks up to the task or should we eventually expect to play board games and read books to fill the hours now spent online?

“We’ve seen no evidence of networks being outright overloaded by the shift in consumer demand over the past week. We’ll continue monitoring this as the situation progresses, but for now, there’s nothing tangible to suggest that consumers need to drastically alter their behaviors online, even in areas that have seen more significant dips in download speeds,” said Tyler Cooper, editor-n-chief of BroadbandNow, which helps consumers connect with internet service providers.

BroadbandNow looked at the range of median download speeds available in 200 cities between Jan. 1 to March 14 and then compared them with the median download speed during the week of March 15-21 to see where the median dropped below the prior range, a sign of a network under stress.

The good news is that in a majority of places, speeds are holding up. Only 88 out of the 200 cities studied have experienced median speeds below the prior range. And of those, only 24 cities had a dip in median speeds of 20% or more below the old range.

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That group includes Littleton, which experienced a 22% drop in median download speeds, the worst of any Colorado city in the study. But Littleton started with blazing fast Internet and it boasts a median download speed of 57.8 Mbps even with the drop. Denver’s median download speed dropped 13% to 25.75 Mbps last week. Fort Collins speeds are down 7% to 34.4 Mbps, while speeds in Colorado Springs are off 6% to 26.1 Mbps..

Cooper said the speed degradation seen in Denver and other cities isn’t overly concerning and reflects the variations in traffic being experienced. They are moderate compared to the three metros that have seen the biggest drops: Austin, Texas, down 44%; Oxnard, Calif., down 42%, and Winston Salem, N.C., down 41%.

“It could simply be due to employees logging into their work environments from their home connection via VPN, which would be a bit slower in general,’ Cooper said.

But Alex Moulle-Berteaux, the chief operating officer for Starry, a startup which deploys 5G broadband, said the real test of the system comes in upload speeds, which are being taxed.