Figure 5: Figure 4: Milan IX, Milan Italy
What this usage data makes clear is that without the ability of IXPs to route traffic locally, the increase in traffic would have to be handled via traditional long-haul transit. In other words, if there were no IXPs, we’d have to handle this traffic some other, less efficient way. And that would mean increased latency and decreased performance for Canadians at a time when they need a strong and resilient internet more than ever.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Canada’s IXPs are doing everything in their power to mitigate the impact of the country-wide escalation of internet usage. The Toronto Internet Exchange, for example, is offering its existing customers free port upgrades for 60 days to help them add capacity to their networks quickly. And the Saskatoon Internet Exchange is offering free one-year memberships to public sector organizations in Canada.
What’s causing the uptick?
The reasons behind the uptick in Internet usage in Canada are not surprising. While they’re confined to their homes every day, Canadians are giving their internet connections a workout. They’re continuously reloading news and social feeds to stay up to date on the spread of the virus, the latest safety recommendations, and the many new financial assistance programs designed to help them navigate these extremely challenging economic times.
They’re also trying to stay productive in their jobs and school work while continuing to connect with friends and family in a meaningful way. As a result, the use of Zoom and other bandwidth-intensive video conferencing apps has skyrocketed over the last few weeks. And to keep themselves and their home-bound families entertained, Canadians are turning to online gaming and video streaming, both of which are significant contributors to the traffic surge.
So, where do we go from here?
With no one able to say with any certainty when the pandemic will end and social distancing measures will be lifted in Canada, what’s clear is that Canadians will continue to rely on the internet in all aspects of their lives and usage will remain at its current high levels.
For now, thanks in large part to our network of IXPs and their willingness to step up to the plate by waiving port fees and offering free upgrades, our defenses are holding. But the IXPs can’t do it alone. They need help from Canadian network operators, including ISPs, government organizations at all levels and enterprises. So, if your organization is not currently peering with your local IXP, we urge you to do so as soon as possible.
In times of crisis, we all need to do whatever we can to help. While peering is important for all types of networks in Canada, it’s particularly urgent for any municipal, provincial, or federal government agencies that deliver emergency updates online and provide access to the many programs being rolled out to help Canadians get through this extremely challenging time.