We’ve heard of viruses threatening computer networks, but the actual flu? As if retailers needed another reason to worry about this year’s holiday season, a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is predicting that the flu could cause major slowdowns and possibly outages with E-Commerce sites due to—we couldn’t make this up—increased bandwidth demand caused by a lot of people staying at home in bed. Specifically, the report is worried about flu-victim telecommuting workers and sneezing children playing online video games sharply increasing bandwidth demands.
“Concerns exist that a more severe pandemic outbreak than 2009’s could cause large numbers of people staying home to increase their Internet use and overwhelm Internet providers’ network capacities. Increased demand during a severe pandemic could exceed the capacities of Internet providers’ access networks for residential users and interfere with teleworkers in the securities market and other sectors,” the report said. “Private Internet providers have limited ability to prioritize traffic or take other actions that could assist critical teleworkers. Some actions, such as reducing customers’ transmission speeds or blocking popular Web sites, could negatively impact E-Commerce and require government authorization. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not developed a strategy to address potential Internet congestion or worked with federal partners to ensure that sufficient authorities to act exist.”