Google Fiber Fights Buffering Issues for Users

Google says it is working more closely with content providers to make service as efficient as possible, including allowing content providers to install their networking gear in Google facilities.

Google Fiber wants users to know that it is continuously working hard to ensure that its customers are getting the best service possible, making constant adjustments and configuring to keep bothersome video buffering to a minimum.

Jeffrey Burgan, Google Fiber's director of network engineering, dove into the issue of buffering and how Google is working to fight it in a May 21 post on the Google Fiber Blog.

"We've all had the moment where we scratch our heads and ask, 'why is this video so slow?'" wrote Burgan. "Unfortunately, there's no single answer to this question. Your video 'packets' of online bits and bytes have to travel a really long way, along several different networks, just to get to you, and they could be slowed down anywhere. So, because we know you want to stream videos and browse effortlessly, we've designed our network to minimize buffering."

But the Google network is only one part of the service delivery chain, wrote Burgan. "We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video's journey shorter and faster. (This doesn't involve any deals to prioritize their video 'packets' over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic—we don't do that.)"

Network bottlenecks that can slow users' connections can also be found in other parts of the system, including in places such as the connections between Google's network and the systems of content providers, wrote Burgan. If those connections are slow, it will affect content delivery to end users, no matter how fast their own Internet connections are, he explained.

To fight that problem, Google invites content providers to hook up their networks directly to Google's network in a process called "peering," which provides a more direct connection to the content sought by users, he wrote.

"We have also worked with services like Netflix so that they can 'co-locate' their equipment in our Fiber facilities," which allows them to place their content delivery equipment inside Google facilities for free, helping to make the connections more efficient, wrote Burgan. "What does that mean for you? Usually, when you go to Netflix and click on the video that you want to watch, your request needs to travel to and from the closest Netflix data center, which might be a roundtrip of hundreds or thousands of miles. Instead, Netflix has placed their own servers within our facilities (in the same place where we keep our own video-on-demand content). Because the servers are closer to where you live, your content will get to you faster and should be a higher quality."

Offering co-location to content providers helps increase performance for Google Fiber customers in a win-win for customers and for Google itself, he wrote. "It's good for content providers because they can deliver really high-quality streaming video to their customers. For example, because Netflix co-located their servers along our network, their customers can access full 1080p HD and, for those who own a 4K TV, Netflix in Ultra HD 4K.

"It's good for us because it saves us money (it's easier to transport video traffic from a local server than it is to transport it thousands of miles). But most importantly, we do this because it gives Fiber users the fastest, most direct route to their content. That way, you can access your favorite shows faster."

Google Fiber's ultra-high-speed Internet and cable television services debuted in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., in the fall of 2012, according to an eWEEK report. In April 2013, Google announced that it would bring the service to Provo, Utah, just eight days after it unveiled plans to bring Google Fiber to Austin, Texas. The Provo project was the third U.S. community to be slated for Fiber service so far. Other cities, including Prairie Village, Mission Hills and Roeland Park, Kan., have also approved service plans for Google Fiber.

In April 2014, Google Fiber began testing a free outdoor public WiFi system outside the Crown Center mixed-use development in Kansas City, Mo., as part of an experiment to build more public WiFi systems in the Kansas City area.

In February 2014, Google announced its plans to consider 34 additional U.S. cities in nine metro areas for Fiber service. The 34 additional communities—which are clustered around the Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; San Antonio; Salt Lake City; and San Jose, Calif., metro areas—were invited to work with Google Fiber to see if they are interested in having the Gigabit-speed cable TV and Internet services brought to their communities for new subscribers. The specific communities within these metro areas that will actually get Google Fiber services will be chosen and announced over the next year. Not all of the 34 communities that will now be in discussions with Google for Fiber service will ultimately get it in this round, Google announced.

The issues that will impact those decisions include legal, construction, permitting, infrastructure and other local matters that have to be addressed when building a complex fiber system, according to the company.