Olympics may disrupt UK internet

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Strain on systems

The government has warned businesses that the London 2012 Olympic Games could disrupt internet connections across the UK, due to unusually high demand - and has recommended that daily operational practices should be carefully considered.

The issue has been raised by an official advice document created by the Cabinet Office, entitled Preparing Your Business For The Games, which encourages business owners to ensure they have flexible working arrangements in place.

During the Olympics (27 July to 12 August, 2012), around 800,000 spectators and 55,000 participants - including athletes, officials, organisers and media representatives - are likely to be travelling around London to watch events, many of whom will use the internet via smartphones and computers to navigate and remain in contact with others.

The document said: "It is possible that internet services may be slower during the Games or, in very severe cases, there may be dropouts due to an increased number of people accessing the internet."

It added: "[Internet service providers] may introduce data caps during peak times to try to spread the loading and give a more equal service to their entire customer base."

The latter excerpt has led to fears that people in areas of high usage, particularly very large companies, are at risk of service interruption. It may not be feasible for huge volumes of people to work at the same location, as internet service providers would view it as a high concentration of usage. It is therefore recommended that employers consider allowing staff to work from home where possible - and also that shifts are made more flexible to balance peak time demands.

Permanent impact on operations

The Department For Transport (DFT) intends to launch a scheme in Whitehall named Operation StepChange, which will see many of its employees working remotely for a week, to test how well such an arrangement would run. Ministers reportedly believe that it could have a permanent impact on the way the public sector operates.

It is predicted that on the first day of the track and field events of the Olympics, 3 August 2012, there will be an additional 3m journeys taken on London's public transport - in addition to the average daily number of 12m.

Daniel Nolan, managing director at theEword, said: "This is a massive operational issue which raises some important questions about how we work and why. There is already a great deal of pressure on transport systems in the UK and for many businesses it would actually be more cost effective to allow people to work from home, as well as possibly providing a better quality of life for some employees."

"Email, instant messaging, online file sharing and video conferencing are widely available and frequently used by remote workers with success."