Students who typically learn in the classroom are getting their instruction online. Those work emails and projects that are typically sent over the office's network are being sent from your kitchen table. And the oddity of mandated social distancing can only be solved, for some, by scrolling through social media and surfing the Web, several times per day.

This period of work-at-home and school-at-home, brought on by the rapid spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, has been seen as one extremely long snow day by the companies that provide the network capabilities of your family's phones and laptops.

The leading providers in the Garden State are picking up on definite changes in usage patterns — including more people actually dialing their phones to speak to others — and say this temporary "new normal" shouldn't be hard to handle.

"Overall the peaks are still well within our network's capacity," said Jennifer Bilotta, vice president of communications for Comcast.

Comcast has seen shifts toward more daytime usage of its Xfinity services, particularly in areas mandating or urging more stringent social-distancing measures to stem COVID-19's spread, such as New Jersey.

"We're closely monitoring internet usage and watching the load on the network, nationally and locally," Bilotta said.

Comcast recently announced its Xfinity WiFi hotspots would be available for free to anyone who needs them, including non-subscribers. Its service for low-income households, Internet Essentials, is being offered to new customers at no cost for 60 days, and speed is increasing for the program's current users.

Comparing March 12 to March 19, voice usage jumped 25% among Verizon customers, the communications and technology company reported. Overall, Verizon saw a 75% increase over its networks; video streaming increased by 12% and web traffic by 20%. Social media usage saw no change.

"We're in an unprecedented situation," said Kyle Malady, chief technology officer. "We continually evaluate peak data usage times and build our networks to stay ahead of that demand."

Altice USA, which serves Optimum customers in New Jersey, is offering a 60-day cost-free service to new customer households who do not currently have home internet access but have K-12 and/or college students who are displaced due to school closures.

The company said said it's been investing in technology and increasing network capacity to meet the growing demands of the "always online" culture, and that includes having contingency plans for situations such as the current health crisis.

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