Technology

Google Fiber apologizes for outage at World Series start, cites server problems

For a time Tuesday night, Google Fiber boxes in Kansas City were of little value. The company’s name was mud as its network went out at the start of the Royals’ World Series game against the Mets.
For a time Tuesday night, Google Fiber boxes in Kansas City were of little value. The company’s name was mud as its network went out at the start of the Royals’ World Series game against the Mets. Bloomberg News

At least it wasn’t the end of Game 7.

Yet the crash of Google Fiber service across the Kansas City market at the start of the World Series on Tuesday — blacking out Alcides Escobar’s thrilling in-the-park homer — chipped away at the fandom of the fiber-optic Internet-and-TV service for at least a night.

The company responded with an apology and on Wednesday promised customer credits equal to the cost of two days of service.

“We’re sorry for the inconvenience,” Kelly Carnago, the Google Fiber manager for Kansas City, said in a statement released Wednesday night. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard than this, and we’re taking immediate steps to ensure this type of issue doesn’t happen again.”

The shutdown hit TV and Internet customers on Google Fiber’s system broadly across the Kansas City market. Most lost service from shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday until about 7:35 p.m. Others lost their connections for several hours, although it returned before the hometown club bested the Mets in a 14-inning nail-biter.

Google Fiber said it did not know exactly how many customers lost service. It has regularly declined to say how many subscribers it sells to in the market.

The outage sprung from a failure of a computer server designed to authenticate customer equipment, what the company describes as a security feature. When the server’s authentication process was interrupted, the company said, it began denying legitimate customers access to the network.

Google said it had resolved the problem entirely by 10:15 p.m. and the company was taking steps to make sure the problem doesn’t make an encore.

But the outage had customers fuming. On the company’s help forum, one of dozens of angry posts summed up the vibe: “Not a good time to go down.” Google Fiber got so many calls to its customer service phone line that most users only heard rings or busy signals. That prompted even more complaints on the forum.

The timing proved particularly embarrassing to Google. An estimated three of every four TVs in the city were tuned to the World Series game. It was also the evening before the company announced that it was beginning negotiations to expand service to Oklahoma City and Florida markets in Tampa and Jacksonville.

Online, one person tweeted, “Hey @kcpolice, could you do a welfare check on #googlefiber KC?” and others labeled it an “#EpicFail.”

A few innings after most Google Fiber customers saw their service return, Fox’s national broadcast was disrupted and viewers missed one at-bat, a Kendrys Morales strikeout, because of what that network said was a loss of power to an operations truck at the stadium.

Scott Canon: 816-234-4754, @ScottCanon

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