As a consumer, its important to understand that streaming games during “March Madness” has risks…including the chance that your office network might crash just as a potential buzzer beater approaches the rim.
That’s the word from IT professionals, who reported in one recent survey by Braun Research on behalf of Modis, who found that about 40 percent of workplace networks slowed significantly during last year’s NCAA Basketball tournament and some virtually shut down at times because too many workers were watching the games on their workplace computers.
Whether you’re rooting for your favorite team, just checking to see how you’re doing in the office basketball pool, or trying to do work, an untimely crash is a bit of a nightmare that’s keeping IT pros up at night as March Madness continues.
By some estimates, online traffic increases by 25 percent or more during the tournament, and some businesses are placing limits on workers’ ability to stream video during the games. It’s a tough, but manageable, challengethat ends on April 2 when this year’s champion is crowned. But the March Madness video surge exemplifies a bigger national challenge as Internet video expands.
The explosion in smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other broadband-capable wireless devices is creating demand that could overwhelm wireless networks, leading to service delays and shutdowns, dropped calls, and frozen video. If that happens, missing a critical three-pointer will be a minor worry.
Part of the answer is continued private investment to expand infrastructure to better serve consumers, but ultimately wireless providers can only do so much unless they get more spectrum – the critical airwaves that carry signals from one place to another. Congress recently made a start by authorizing the FCC to auction unused wireless spectrum that’s voluntarily turned over by television broadcasters.
This “down payment” is a great start, but it is not enough. If we want our networks to keep running, government needs policies that enable wireless providers to buy the spectrum they need to keep the Internet working and consumers able to use their devices.
Debra Berlyn is president of Consumer Policy Solutions and director of the Consumer Awareness Project. She maintains a website and blog at http://www.consumerawarenessproject.org/