NFL blames network cable for tablet snafu during AFC championship game

Jan. 27, 2016
A network cable issue, not the tablets themselves, was the reason the New England Patriots could not view still pictures on their sideline tablets, according to the league.

Viewers of the AFC championship game on Sunday, January 24 may remember that during the first quarter, the CBS broadcast team made note of the fact that the New England Patriots were unable to use their tablet computers on their sideline to view still images of game action. The circumstance was a potential embarrassment for Microsoft, whose Surface brand tablets are used by each NFL team during each game.

On Monday, January 25, the NFL issued a statement placing blame where it apparently rightly belongs—on the network cable, not the Microsoft Surface. The brief statement read, “Near the end of the 1st quarter, we experienced an infrastructure issue on the Patriots sideline that impacted still photos for the coaching tablets. The issue was identified as a network cable malfunction and was resolved during the 2nd quarter. The issue was not caused by the tablets or the software that runs on the tablets. We have experienced no issues with the tablets this season. Any issues were network related.”

For professionals in the structured cabling industry, the story is a familiar one that just happened to play out on a national stage. A network cable failure brings down a mission-critical application. This writer wonders, though, if the fact that Microsoft is paying the NFL $400 million for the rights to become the league’s official tablet in any way motivated the league to quickly identify the network cable as the problem in this case, and to point the finger at the network for every performance issue that came up throughout the season.

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