Some locals to use videoconferencing for Thanksgiving gatherings; internet providers say they’re ready

Zoom, internet providers handle a virtual Thanksgiving
A screenshot of a Zoom meeting.
A screenshot of a Zoom meeting. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The COVID-19 pandemic has some locals opting not to travel this Thanksgiving. They will instead communicate with loved ones and friends in other states through videoconferencing offered by ZOOM and Facetime and other platforms.

Susan Kierr is one of them.

“I’m in the very happy position of having 5 children but only one of them lives here in New Orleans,” said Kierr.

She will videoconference with her other four kids who live in different time zones.

“So, we have to schedule who’s going to get me for dessert and who’s going to get me for appetizers,” said Kierr.

Jacob Barclay says he will do the same to feel closer to relatives in other states.

“We’re definitely going to be Facetiming with family all day. We’ve got family in Colorado. We’ve got family in Texas,” said Barclay.

Zoom tweeted that it is lifting its 40-minute limit for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Janine Pelosi, Chief Marketing Officer for Zoom. She issued the following statement.

She said, “We know Thanksgiving will look a little different this year, so we’re lifting the 40-minute time limit to allow families and loved ones to connect on Zoom for as long as they need and from wherever they are in the world. Throughout the pandemic, Zoom’s had a big role in helping to keep people connected both personally and professionally and we hope this helps provide a safe and easy way to gather friends and family this Thanksgiving without having to worry about cutting your family gatherings short.”

And the company says, “We operate our own global (co-located) data centers around the globe, providing significant control and flexibility when it comes to routing both audio and video traffic. In addition, we work with public cloud providers to help with increased demand. We implemented a similar lift of the 40-minute call limit for free users on Mother’s Day earlier this year with no disruption to our services.”

Tulane University Professor Ashley Nelson teaches communications and is part of the school of business at the university. She applauds the move by Zoom.

“I think it’s wonderful because if anyone’s been on a Zoom call with friends and family and then all of a sudden, you’re talking and your screen goes to black you’re like oh, oh,” said Nelson.

David D’Aquin is a public affairs manager with COX Communications.

“We’re ready. We’ve been preparing for this moment. We continue to invest in our infrastructure,” said D’Aquin.

He said for months COX has been handling the increased demand related to people working from home and students engaged in online learning.

“Our network has been performing very well,” said D’Aquin. “We’ve been supporting children learning from home and parents working from home all through the pandemic, so this will just be another day for us.”

Charter Communications believes it is ready as well.

Patti Michel, Senior Director of Regional Communications for Charter issued the following statement:

“We built our networks to exceed maximum capacity during peak evening usage, and despite the continued network activity we are seeing in the daytime, levels remain below capacity and typical peak evening usage in most markets. We monitor our network around-the-clock and will adjust our resources as needed to provide the reliable internet and essential services our customers depend on.”

Nelson said videoconferencing tools are invaluable.

“To be able to speak and see one another in real-time is just fantastic. I mean this is out of the Jetsons’ age, right, for those of us who grew up watching the Jetsons,” said Nelson.

And while many people appreciate having the digital tools that will allow them to see and speak to their friends and loved ones who are away on Thanksgiving, they also concede that the pandemic has been difficult.

“My parents are pretty heartbroken; they’ve been keeping it pretty tight. We haven’t seen each other since last Christmas, so it’s a tough one but we’re just trying to keep safe and everyone’s doing their part,” Barclay stated.

Zoom’s Esther Yoon offered the following tips for people who will use the platform on Thanksgiving:

  • Send invitations with a set start and end time to guests via email or Zoom’s calendar integration—do not post your invite to social media where it can easily be seen by people you don’t intend to have at your gathering.
  • Make your guests feel special and give them a chance to do more socializing by keeping the invite list on the smaller side.
  • “Work the room” Zoom-style--ask direct questions to specific people and make sure everyone has a chance to participate. Use Zoom’s Gallery View setting to ensure you can see everyone at the party at once.
  • Make the most of Zoom features that allow you to personalize your meeting. Invite guests to bring their best Zoom virtual backgrounds for a specific destination or have a contest to guess the destination. You can also add stickers or color filters that are holiday-centered.

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