erik lundegaard

The Case of the Buffering TV

This is a post about modern problems, first world annoyances. I suppose it's the not knowing that's the annoyance. It's the not knowing where to begin.

Here's the problem: Buffering issues while streaming content (movies, TV shows) via Netflix.

Here are the suspects:

  • Netflix, the content provider
  • Comcast, the internet service provider
  • Apple AirPort, the router
  • Motorola Surfboard, the modem
  • Sony, the Blu-Ray player
  • Sony, the TV

We've had this problem for years, ever since we started streaming a few years back. 2009? 2010? When did that begin? It's part of the reason why I don't use the feature much. Too annoying.

“No, my dear, the REAL murderer is--”


“No, Luke. I am your--”


This year, for different reasons, we got a new wireless router, the Apple AirPort. But no change on the buffering front.

We also bought a brand-new, high-speed modem to replace the 5-year-old thing we rented from Comcast. Better. At least it would start better. Ten megabytes per seconds. Maybe 15 or 20 or even 25. Then, poof, right in the middle of the show:

“Yo, Mr. White, I said--”


From 20 beautiful MBPS we'd be down to 2. Less than 2? Less than 1? C'mon, buddy. Pull up, pull up, pull up!


“Is your network password protected?”

“Of course.”

“Does the buffering happen during primetime?”

“Now that you mention it ...”

That was a techie friend last month. He explained about fiber optic cable, and how Comcast, sure, uses it, but into neighborhoods, not homes; and once people get home they tend to use it, and all that use weighs on the system. Everyone's sharing, so everyone has a little less. That was the problem. That was the culprit. Comcast.

Comcast didn't think so. According to themówhen I could finally reach themówe were getting a nice ... whatever. Count. Number. Head of steam. Head of stream. They were delivering what we had bought.

I began to doubt Comcast was the culprit, too. I began to realize (derrr) we had three items sharing our wireless network: two computers and the TV/Blu-Ray player. And the computers were fine. Always. I streamed, via Netflix, without issue on the computer.

But maybe streaming via HD TV takes a bigger hit?

So I decided to test it. One Friday. At noon, my computer, via the Ookla speedtest, was delivering 33.35 MBPS; the TV, via steaming, 18.1 MBPS. At 6 PM, it was 30.45 vs. 16.9. And at 9 PM? 23.37 and 2.

Whoops. Bit of a drop there. Even the computer took a hit during primetime. But not like the hit the TV took.

So now we were down to two culprits.

Both the TV and the Blu-Ray player had been bought about the same time. 2009? Not 2008, was it? Was it that old? Either way, I assumed Blu-Ray player, since that's what we streamed through, and since it was cheaper and easier to replace than the TV.

Or should I get an Apple TV? A complication. But not much of one. It would be another device next to the TV. It would be more wires added to my wireless network.

The ending, being without problems, was anticlimactic. I searched online for good 2013 Blu-Ray players. I bought one online. It arrived. I plugged it in and set it up. It works like a dream. A Hollywood ending.

And it only took 9 months.

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Posted at 07:42 AM on Wed. Sep 18, 2013 in category Technology  


Tim wrote:

Yeah, the more stuff that's involved in the chain the more likely there is to be a problem. One reason I've never bothered with a special stream-capable TV device; when I stream Netflix I do it to my laptop, which I can plug my TV into as a monitor/stereo into as speakers. Easy-peasy, one unit in the chain (two counting the wireless router, though I could plug it in to be wired too).

I've never tried On Demand stuff through connecting my DirecTV to my router (is there anything there that isn't already on Netflix?), but that's part of my deal. Not the same, since I don't think it actually sends the video through the 'net, just the account access, unless I misunderstand it. Wonder how well it works. Maybe I'll test it tonight.

Comment posted on Thu. Sep 19, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Erik wrote:

Tim: Current seasons are not on Netflix. When a new season begins, that's when the previous season tends to be available.

Did you test it?

Comment posted on Fri. Sep 20, 2013 at 08:47 AM

Tim wrote:

I did, I watched the first episode of “Orphan Black.” Pretty decent (and not on Netflix).

It worked fine, but most of what's available there isn't HD (at least, most of what's available without paying extra), so that's a downside. Nice to know it's easy, though, I may use it more often. I'll probably catch up on “Orphan Black,” anyway.

Comment posted on Fri. Sep 20, 2013 at 02:55 PM
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