It’s difficult to say exactly how many people are now working from home. But as social distancing becomes the norm, it’s safe to say those who can work from home, do.
But in South Florida, not everyone has access to broadband internet – a key resource to make working from home a reality. NBC 6 found 80.9% of households in Broward County have a broadband internet subscription. In Monroe County, that number falls to 77.6% and in Miami-Dade it’s 73.2%. These numbers are based on a 5-year estimate. Statewide, the percentage of households with a broadband internet subscription is 78.6%, behind several states including Alaska and Wyoming.
“When you look at who has broadband internet, you have to understand why people may not have it,” said Sascha Seagan, a lead analyst for PCMag.com.
Seagan told NBC 6 people in urbanized areas like South Florida usually don’t have internet either because they’re elderly and feel they don’t need it or because they don’t have the means to pay it. He also said housing could be a factor.
“Ultimately, to get a solid broadband connection into your home, you need to have reliable housing with a landlord that is amenable to it and you need to have steady enough income that you can pay the bill,” he said. “I think that is probably the biggest problem in Miami-Dade.”
Still, those who do have access will likely be using it now more than ever, leading some to wonder if networks are equipped to handle the increased demand.
“What we’re finding is that core internet networks seem to be equipped,” he said. “I’ve been tracking speeds nationwide and worldwide over the past couple of weeks and, overall, performance has just dipped slightly.”
Sascha said he had seen some issues with servers handling traditional voice calling systems and video calls. But he added he believed the networks handling the increased demand will be fine.
“What I’m more concerned about is people who may not be able to have access to the internet they need, especially for schooling, because of their income or housing situations,” he said. “Those are the people who we really need to be looking out for in society right now.”
Comcast, the parent company of NBC 6, announced Xfinity WiFi hotspots located in businesses and outdoor locations across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free. You can see a map of Xfinity WiFi hotspots here. The company also announced they are pausing their data plans for 60 days, giving all customers Unlimited data for no additional charge. To read more about the offers available, click here.
AT&T is also opening its public Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them. The company announced it would continue to offer internet access for qualifying limited income households at $10 a month through their Access from AT&T program. They expanded eligibility for this program to households participating in the National School Lunch Program and Head Start. You can read more on what the company is offering here.