Video conferencing and cocktails-to-go may not be the only 2020 trends that outlast the Covid-19 pandemic. Internet service paid for by employers could also be here to stay, as employers evaluate the cost of office space for workers versus supporting telework.
At least four major ISPs are now offering corporate customers a way to purchase enterprise-grade internet service for their home-based workers. In some cases that means secure access to a corporate WAN, and in other cases it means a reliable high speed connection. Some iterations offer both, plus added features like static IP addresses and SD-WAN. All the services are marketed as supplements to a worker's existing internet connection, not as replacements.
AT&T was one of the first to offer enterprise customers a home connectivity option for employees. AT&T Home Office Connectivity is marketed to companies as a way to "take employees off personal internet," and includes on-site installation, speeds up to 1 Gbps without data caps and a consolidated bill through which the company can pay for all employees using the service. Companies can also add on an SD-WAN compatible security gateway for endpoint protection and data loss prevention solutions. AT&T says it will provide wireless broadband options to companies in areas that do not have its High Speed Internet-Enterprise offering. AT&T's wireless network is also the backup for Home Office Connectivity customers whose internet connection goes down.
Just a few days after AT&T unveiled its WFH service, Comcast announced Business at Home. Like AT&T, Comcast is offering on-site installation, no data caps and the option of a static IP address. Companies pay for the employee connections, and there is no limit to the number they can add. The employer can also assign permissions to the employees, giving them the ability to manage some of their own services on the corporate connection.
In mid-June, CenturyLink launched its Remote Connect service, which is slightly different from the others in that it uses the employees' existing internet connection, whether it's with CenturyLink, or not. Employers pay a monthly fee for their workers to have Meraki routers that provide firewalls and private tunnels to the corporate network. CenturyLink typically does not install the Meraki routers for the Remote Connect users.
Late last month, Cox announced Cox Business Work-at-Home, which offers speeds of up to 1 Gbps down, security software, optional access to a static IP address and Microsoft 365, and on-site installation (except for an optional handset for phone service, which users can plug into their phone jacks.) Employers pay a monthly fee for the service, which Cox said starts at about $145 per user per month, and can go up with the addition of more features.
All of these services have the potential to bring faster, more reliable internet to residential users. Of course the extent to which people can use the services for non-work related online activities will vary from company to company, but it's likely that most home-based workers won't complain too much about the additional bandwidth.