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Johanne Torres[October 15, 2004]

FCC: Thumbs Up to Broadband over Power Lines

BY JOHANNE TORRES


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a groundbreaking announcement today; the agency gave its blessing for electric utilities to offer broadband Internet service through electrical outlets. So, we will soon be able to literally plug in our modems into the electric outlet, and Voila! We will be connected to the Web at broadband speed!




The FCC declared its intentions of promoting access to broadband Internet services nationwide and to “encourage new facilities-based broadband platforms.” The availability of Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) would greatly benefit consumers in areas where access to other broadband services is currently non existent. Access BPL will even be able to serve homes where not even telephone lines are available. According to FCC’s press release, Access BPL will also benefit electric utilities by allowing them to “dynamically manage the power grid itself, increasing network reliability by remote diagnosis of electrical system failures.”

If you really think about it, it certainly makes sense for electric companies to adopt such a business plan, since their lines are already set up, their implementation costs would be minimal, compared to the potential earnings obtainable from a range of services added on to broadband services, such as VoIP, etc.

With the announced changes to its rule 15 to favor the adoption of Access BPL the FCC:

  • Sets forth rules imposing new technical requirements on BPL devices, such as the capability to avoid using any specific frequency and to remotely adjust or shut down any unit;
  • Establishes “excluded frequency bands” within which BPL must avoid operating entirely to protect aeronautical and aircraft receivers communications; and establishes “exclusion zones” in locations close to sensitive operations, such as coast guard or radio astronomy stations, within which BPL must avoid operating on certain frequencies;
  • Establishes consultation requirements with public safety agencies, federal government sensitive stations, and aeronautical stations.
  • Establishes a publicly available Access BPL notification database to facilitate an organized approach to identification and resolution of harmful interference.
  • Changes the equipment authorization for Access BPL systems from verification to certification; and
  • Improves measurement procedures for all equipment that use RF energy to communicate over power lines.

According to The New York Times, the new service is currently being tested in the city of Cincinnati, OH. Cinergy—the city’s electric utility company, along with Current Communications currently offers different service plans priced from $29.95 to $49.95 monthly.

Johanne Torres is the contributing editor for TMCnet.com and Internet Telephony magazine. Previously, she was the assistant editor for EContent magazine in Connecticut. She can be reached by e-mail at jtorres@tmcnet.com.

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