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July 13, 2005

Broadband via power lines!!

From CIO-Today:

IBM is partnering with a Texas utility to deliver broadband over power line (BPL) technology in the Houston area, joining the small but growing number of companies rolling out high-speed Internet service using standard home and business wiring.

CenterPoint Energy and IBM are collaborating their efforts at a Houston technology center run by the power provider. At the technology center, CenterPoint has started a pilot program designed to demonstrate the capabilities of BPL in the home.

BPL technology is touted as a way not only to provide broadband access to areas lacking DSL or cable connections, but also to improve power service and reliability. Using a BPL modem, consumers can plug a computer into any home or office outlet and receive high-speed access.

"With more bandwidth available, utilities can improve their delivery systems through the development of smart grid technologies, such as automated meter reading, real time system monitoring, preventive maintenance and outage detection," said Raymond Blair, vice president of broadband over power initiatives at IBM.

As I understand it there quite a bit more bandwidth using this method than either DSL or cable. There's also the benefit of easy access to anyone who has electricity, which means those people who live in more remote locations outside the range of DSL or cable would be able to get broadband.

A friend of mine predicts that if this technology becomes more easily available, we'll see internet access deemed an entitlement that the state would pay for for those who can't afford it, as it does with food, electricity and telephone service.

There have been home networking systems based on this available for some time, but with the popularity of WiFi, the market hasn't been all that enthusiastic. In the case of broadband, though, it's a different story.

As early as 2001, a German company was promising internet via power lines for as low as $22 a month. But checking the company's web site shows no mention of the service. At that time most US IT companies were rejecting power lines as a medium for broadband. But by 2004 the atmosphere seemed to have changed.

Last year the city of Manassas, Virginia had an 18-month field trial, testing the practicality of power lines for broadband. And Google has announced it is investing in the technology, and seems to be considering jumping into the web hosting market.

Don Singleton mentions, today, that SBC is lobbying hard to prevent municipal WiFi, because they want to offer their own WiFi. If powerline broadband emerges, they may be wasting their money

Posted by Danny Carlton at July 13, 2005 09:29 AM

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