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Comcast says the lunch hour is back, at home

New data shows people are taking a proper midday break, by turning off Wi-Fi

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The coronavirus pandemic has created a difficult time for most worldwide. But in one respect, it may be prompting people to slow down and spend more time focusing on each other — even over an old-fashioned midday meal.

That's the findings of a new report from cable provider Comcast, which has seen a substantial bump in Wi-Fi pausing between 11 am and 2 pm — the hours when many people may be taking an early, midday or late lunch. That pause often happened at dinner time, when families would sit down after work and school to catch up with each other.

But the lunchtime hour pause is up 213 percent since March 9, coinciding with many school closures across the country. However that's not the only time when families are taking an internet break. Pausing, a feature Comcast xFi subscribers can use when they want, is up overall 75 percent since before the pandemic. And that may be because parents are trying to create a bit more structure to their children's time when they are online.

Comcast xFi pods Peak time online has changed since the coronavirus pandemic beganComcast

Many families are now being asked to turn their bedrooms and family rooms into classrooms, and that means online access is certainly crucial. But there are infinite distractions on the internet that are potentially more entertaining than school lessons, like a set of algebra problems. That may be one reason Comcast is finding a 43 percent increase in people making use of filters overall, those that can limit certain web content and sites from hitting devices.

Not surprisingly, however, all of this pausing has only lengthened the online day — the hours when people are getting online to do work, whether for school or business. Another feature parents can tap into through Comcast xFi system is a time alert, which can limit how long children can get online. That's now up from a median of three active hours a day to four.

Additionally, the time when upstream and downstream traffic is peaking has changed. That 9 pm hour, when the children may finally in bed, and parents can turn on a show or start returning some last work emails, has shifted completely.

Upstream peaks are now all over the map, from between 8 and 6 pm in most cities, says Comcast. On the flip side, downstream peaks are firmly between 7 and 8 pm, likely when families or roommates are gathering together for a movie night, and some time to pause and get a break from the new normal we're all living in today.

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