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Lost in Texas' SB 21: BPL on the way?
[July 22, 2005]

Lost in Texas' SB 21: BPL on the way?

TMCnet Communications and Broadband Columnist

Lost in the controversy over whether the bill recently passed by the Texas Senate (SB 21) creates an unfair competitive advantage for telcos is a provision that encourages the deployment of broadband over power lines (BPL).

Specifically, the bill provides, among other things, the following:

• Electric utilities may elect to allow an "affiliate" or an "unaffiliated entity" to own or operate a BPL system on the utilities' electric delivery system;

• Electric utilities may allow an "affiliate or unaffiliated entity to provide Internet service over a BPL system."

• Neither the state nor local governments can require their electric utilities to install a BPL system on their power lines.

• BPL installation, operation and use may not be regulated by the state, a municipality or local government.

Regardless, the Texas Senate certainly sees BPL as a viable competitive alternative to DSL and cable modems.

Indeed, the Senate stated the reasons for encouraging BPL in SB 21's preamble, which includes the following:

The "BPL deployment in Texas has the potential to extend broadband service to customers where broadband access is currently not available and may provide an additional option for existing broadband consumers in Texas, resulting in a more competitive market for broadband services."

The next step for this piece of legislation is for the Texas legislature to reconcile the differences in the Senate bill with a similar bill passed by the House.

While this certainly is a positive step in encouraging competition in the broadband arena, there are a couple of things to keep on your radar.

First, BPL may cause interference with ham radio signals, which can cause a p.r. nightmare for companies seeking to deploy the service.

Second, and perhaps most important, is that there are no uniform standards developed for BPL, which has led some industry insiders to shy away from proclaiming that BPL is a viable option in the near future.

TMCnet will continue to monitor the situation and report on any new developments.

Ted Glanzer is assistant editor for TMCnet. For more articles by Ted Glanzer, please visit:

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