July 12, 2005
The Internet in your electrical outlet

I've heard about this technology before, and now it's looking like it's getting close to coming to the market.

CenterPoint Energy is testing a system to bring high-speed Internet access to consumers through the medium it knows best the electric wall socket.

The company that owns the power lines throughout Houston is running a pilot of the system in a Greenway Plaza-area residential neighborhood, offering Internet access at speeds more than one-and-a-half times the speed of services offered through cable modems.

The technology, called broadband over power lines, or BPL, has long been used by power companies to monitor and manage their electric grids, said Thomas Standish, chief operating officer of CenterPoint's Electric and Information Technology business.

But it wasn't until recently that it could be used to offer high-quality data, video and voice services.

It's most likely to have business applications rather than consumer uses, but anything that delivers more choices for broadband is a good thing in my book.

One thing that I wish had more to it:

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, introduced a bill during the recent legislative session to free utilities to offer BPL services without oversight by the Public Utility Commission. The bill failed to pass during the closing days but may be reconsidered during the current special session.

I can certainly see the rationale for this, but I want to know what the activists think about it, since as we all know the telecom bills from the regular session had many aspects that ran from questionable to awful. Chip? Adina? What do y'all think about that?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 12, 2005 to Technology, science, and math | TrackBack

If Fraser sponsored the bill, you can bet it is BAD for the consumer. He is the one that pushed the builders commission bill through the Senate in 2003 after the orginal sponsor dropped it.

Posted by: John Cobarruvias on July 12, 2005 8:54 AM

Fraser introduced SB 1748 during the reg session. It would have allowed electric companies to offer BPL, prohibited subsidization of the service by their electric customers, and offered another choice for broadband.

The main opponents, interestingly, were ham-radio operators. They claim that the technology interferes with their signals. I don't know much about this aspect, but from a consumer point of view, the bill would have been a good thing.
But in the end, it died as a casualty of the SBC/Cable war at the end of session.

Posted by: Electra on July 12, 2005 10:42 AM

Hams are the canaries in the mine. BPL interferes with a stunningly wide array of communications services in the HF and low VHF areas, possibly including air-to-ground communications. So when it gets going strong, thin twice about getting on an airplane. It is also amazingly susceptible to interference, since it runs on unshielded wire. Tests by the ARRL found that transmitters as low as 2 watts could completely disrupt BPL data. I am upgrading to 100 watts, so if you get BPL, hope I'm not nearby. Since BPL is authorized under Part 15 of the FCC regulations, it has to accept any interference caused by licensed operation.

Posted by: michael on July 22, 2005 7:22 PM