COVID-19 Network Report: How Our People Met the Challenge Despite Unparalleled Disruption
(This is the fourth in a series of stories exploring how our network thrived during COVID-19. We’re sharing the key factors that allowed us to deliver fast, reliable service to millions of Americans during history’s largest sustained surge in residential Internet traffic, and how we’re making sure we’re ready for what comes next. You can read more here.)
It’s easy to think of a modern network as a faceless collection of cables, data centers and software, but keeping hundreds of thousands of miles of network operating smoothly for tens of millions of people during the largest sustained traffic surge in Internet history demanded round-the-clock efforts from tens of thousands of Comcast employees across the country.
More than any single technology, it was this human effort that played the pivotal role in ensuring that we were able to safely deliver uninterrupted speed and capacity to customers across the country when they needed it most. Here are some key factors that went into that success.
Even as we worked to ensure that our customers continued to enjoy fast, stable service during COVID-19, our number one priority was keeping our employees safe. That meant sending as many people as possible home and ensuring that those who needed to be onsite in physical Comcast locations had the equipment and procedures in place to keep them safe. In a matter of weeks, we transitioned 95 percent of our customer service employees (tens of thousands), including call center agents, to work-from-home.
Teams from across the country worked together around the clock to help our colleagues through this transition. When we were at the peak of helping our teammates move to work from home, more than 1,000 people were transitioning daily, including hundreds of engineers who play critical roles in keeping the network running smoothly. We were able to do this because of years of investment in and development of smart software and automation tools that allowed network engineers and other Comcast technologists to smoothly continue their critical work while staying safe at home.
While much of the country – and most of our workforce – transitioned quickly to working from home, a dedicated cadre of Comcast technical teams remained out in the field digging trenches, adding new fiber, and ensuring that our physical infrastructure was fully equipped to meet the challenges posed by the COVID-19 Internet traffic surge.
We added hundreds of physical 100-gigabit links to support our customers’ Internet needs. When customers needed it most, our team members rose to the challenge by understanding precisely where capacity was needed, and surgically increasing it at an unrelenting pace.
As social distancing emerged as a critical tool for keeping people safe during the pandemic, we dramatically accelerated our efforts to limit person-to-person contacts and empower consumers with better tools to manage their service and network experience digitally. It took our teams just 30 days to design, prototype and pilot a new virtual technician experience.
Customers can now interact with a Comcast technician to troubleshoot and repair their connection using a smartphone camera. We also accelerated the availability of our award-winning customer experience platform called Xfinity Assistant, which is available across all of our products and allows customers to get help from any connected device. We tracked a 445 percent increase in Xfinity Assistant use during the COVID-19 surge, as customers safely managed their accounts from home.
While our evolved suite of digital tools made it much easier to serve our customers remotely, some things still need to be done in person. Our thousands of frontline workers showed great bravery and flexibility in continuing that work to support our customers.
We equipped teams with the necessary personal protective equipment and implemented new protocols to reduce potential contact and enable social distancing so that they were able to safely complete a significant number of important on-site visits during the pandemic.
We’re proud to run a fast, reliable network, but what matters most is ensuring that the people and businesses that need that network most are able to get online and serve their communities. Our Comcast Business teams worked fast and smart to connect health centers and other essential businesses working on the front lines of the pandemic.
As happy as we are with our network’s strong performance during the COVID-19 traffic surge, we know that it wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of our people, who showed flexibility, determination and bravery in pursuing their mission to keep our customers connected and safe during this unique time when they were needed most.
Ed Marchetti is SVP, National Field Operations.