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Broadband Over Power Lines: Coming Soon? 376

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the believe-it-when-i'm-downloading dept.
Decaffeinated Jedi writes "With technology improving and costs droppings, News.com offers up an interesting report on renewed interest in delivering broadband Internet access via power lines (a technology known as BPL). Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a new set of rules for utility companies that might want to offer BPL services as a way to 'encourage broadband for the entire United States' -- particularly hard-to-reach rural areas. As the article notes, EarthLink has already started testing BPL service in using power lines leased in Wake County, North Carolina. Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?"
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Broadband Over Power Lines: Coming Soon?

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  • BPL Bad (Score:5, Informative)

    by dieman (4814) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:01AM (#8373954) Homepage
    It tramples over many frequencies used by FEMA and Ham Operators. Ick!
    • Re:BPL Bad (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Agreed, for the technology in question earlier.

      Now, have the manufacturers (Cisco? Siemens? Whoever came up with the hardware to do this?) done anything to mitigate the interference? Like pushing it into the TV band(s), where digital ATSC is supposed to help us ignore QRM? ;)

      Anyone know if HomePlug is equally offensive (on a smaller, but much more distributed, scale)?
    • Re:BPL Bad (Score:5, Informative)

      by loucura! (247834) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:14AM (#8374119)
      The good news is that Ham frequencies trample back, and as a Federally licensed operator, your traffic takes precedence to theirs, and since the stuff will be regulated under Part 15, they will be responsible for all the interference. It probably won't endear you to the neighbors though.
      • by Zappa (26961) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:29AM (#8374303)
        Having the same problems for HAM operators, they tried to stop the BPL Test in Austria.
        The ministry responsible for this stated that the HAM services in emergency cases are more important and stopped the testlicense.
        Heres the Press Info [oevsv.at] (sorry, its a PDF) from OEVSV [oevsv.at], the Austrian HAM assosiation.
        • by quinkin (601839) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:31PM (#8375007)
          Well good on the Austrians (and Japanese, and etc.). Funnily enough I agree that emergency communication is more important than more places to receive high speed spam. Have we all seen the graphical representation of BPL's effects [arrl.org]?

          I am yet to see any sort of comprehensive study on the environmental effects of modulating power lines (a damn difficult task without BPL in the mix), there has been a lot of FUD [slashdot.org] but very little research. I do not know what rating power lines they intend to transmit these signals over, but I have spent many an interesting hour reading about the effects that the existing 50-60Hz AC current has on the ionised air around high tension power lines. Regardless of the more esoteric "corona flow" and "ionic squirt" of high voltage lines, it is a bad idea to expand our power lines into higher frequencies.
          The non-ionizing portion of the spectrum can be subdivided into:

          • The optical radiation portion, where electron excitation can occur (visible light, infrared light)
          • The portion where the wavelength is smaller than the body, and heating via induced currents can occur (MW and higher-frequency RF).
          • The portion where the wavelength is much larger than the body, and heating via induced currents seldom occurs (lower-frequency RF, power frequencies, static fields).

          Wavelength bigger than body = good.
          Wavelength smaller than body = bad.

          Heh ok, tinhat off now. :)

          Q.

      • Re:BPL Bad (Score:3, Insightful)

        What a ridiculous approach! Every time there is a BPL story, half of the Ham operators say this. In case everyone isn't aware of it, the Ham frequency isn't written into the Constitution. If you start pissing off your neighbors and say, "I'm a licensed operator and you're not, so eat it," they're going to work to get your license revoked.

        A much better approach is to take the intelligent route. Don't act like a soccer mom in an SUV, trampling over everyone else just because you can, but rather appeal t

        • Re:BPL Bad (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tmasssey (546878) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @01:48PM (#8375952) Homepage Journal
          And that's exactly how the Amateur Radio community usually works. If you've got someone on 10 meters that's interfering with TV, it's *far* easier to build a filter for them than to say, "eat it, I've got the license." And I have a feeling that's how the *vast* majority of licensees would handle it.

          But when you *do* have the license, and their horribly cheap TV is poorly (or better yet, improperly) built, with a front end that a walkie-talkie could overload, then what? I'm not buying you a new TV, and I *DO* have the FEDERAL LICENSE, and the RIGHT to the frequency I'm using!

          Sombody has to have the upper hand. The government has decided that Amateur Radio has advantages such that they are willing to give us Primary use of a few narrowly defined frequencies, and Secondary use of a few more. These frequencies were not given to us. They were allocated for us, in exchange for our using them for the public good: emergency communication, etc. You may not see it as important, but the government does. Until the government, by law, changes this, that's how it works.

      • Re:BPL Bad (Score:4, Interesting)

        by KC7GR (473279) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @03:02PM (#8377008) Homepage Journal
        That's exactly what worries me. It almost seems like BPL was invented to help create bad blood between hams (and other radio users, like FEMA) and the Internet industry.

        Then again, there is the line about never mistaking malice for stupidity. It is also entirely possible that the whole idea for BPL was dreamed up by the same kinds of people who were ultimately responsible for the dot-bomb implosion: More specifically, marketing types who have less than zero clue about even the most basic principles surrounding RF energy, antennas, and transmission lines.

        I still predict that BPL is going to be a spectacular failure, and not necessarily because of its interference to (and susceptibility to interference from) amateur frequencies. I really think the FCC, especially Michael Powell, has lost touch with reality if they're not even willing to listen to FEMA, let alone who knows how many other engineers and techies who have already said "This is a Bad Idea. Don't do it" in one form or another.

        In short: The U.S. Government, including the FBI, Secret Service, NSA, and all branches of the military, are big users of all kinds of radios, on frequecies that literally go from VLF to near-daylight. How long do you think BPL will last once it starts interfering with, say, aircraft-to-ground comms at your local air force base or civilian airport, marine HF, or Naval radio traffic?

    • BPL Bad Indeed (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Pan T. Hose (707794) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:59AM (#8374643) Homepage Journal

      It tramples over many frequencies used by FEMA and Ham Operators. Ick!

      Oh yes, that's very important indeed. But what I'd say is at least equally important issue with Broadband Over Power Lines is that little problem that, well, it's a fucking scam for god's sake!

      I have written about it countless times [slashdot.org]. Please let me quote my last post about this very issue:

      I just cannot believe this thing is still around. The only reason people started trying to use power lines for broadband in the first place was not because of the actual properties of power grid as we know it (most of the comments here talk about the obvious inefficiencies, so I won't talk about it), but a completely new theory invented by Luke Stewart who promised more than billion gigabits per second (sic) with his Media Fusion scam. I suppose Earthlink investors don't know how to use Google [google.com], so please let me quote a Wired article from 2001, by Evan Ratliff:

      Luke Stewart boldly sold politicians, businesspeople, and financiers on his trillion-dollar idea: Use the electrical grid to carry data at speeds faster than we've ever seen. Never mind how.

      Inventor William "Luke" Stewart is a genuine national treasure, the kind of person who comes along once, maybe twice, in a century. How do I know? Well, I heard it from business executives, congressmembers, academics, military leaders, journalists. These people met Luke Stewart, sized him up, and concluded that his scientific intellect was virtually unparalleled. His ideas, they said, could alter not only the future of the Internet but the fate of humanity itself.

      But sometimes you have to go straight to the source. The real reason I know that Luke Stewart is a national treasure - and, I suspect, the reason that all those other people did, too - is that he told me so himself.

      [...] The idea of sending information via the electrical grid, rather than over telephone copper or fiber-optic cable, has been around for decades. The field, known as power line communications, or PLC, is pockmarked with wasted investments and technical failures. Only within the past few months have several companies begun to deploy limited PLC ventures.

      [...] Stewart, however, had a much grander vision, based on what he considered to be a dramatic discovery: Data could hitch a ride on the magnetic field created by electric currents running through power line wires. By piggybacking on this magnetic field, instead of on the electricity itself, he could obtain almost limitless speeds of transmission.

      [...] Media Fusion promised to deliver, within two years, bandwidth at speeds thousands of times faster than what's possible with fiber. Stewart was company chair, while the board of directors included government heavyweights such as former Speaker of the House Robert Livingston; Terry McAullife, a leading Democratic fund-raiser and close friend of then-President Clinton; and Admiral James Carey, former chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. The firm's Web site declared that the ASCM technology would "impact every facet of our life," and the computing power of the network would be "exponentially more powerful than any supercomputer to date." [emphasis added]

      [...] So Luke Stewart - self-proclaimed national treasure - carries on. Chances are, we haven't heard the last of him, [how true...] because Stewart sold his vision best to the one person who will never pull the plug: himself.

      Read the whole article and Google around for more informations. It is a very interesting scam and quite a successful one at that. Maybe that's not homeopathy but it is impressive nonetheless.

      Investors, repeat after me: Google [google.com] is your friend.

  • Competition? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PurdueGraphicsMan (722107) * on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:01AM (#8373961) Homepage Journal
    Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?

    Has there been any information released about the potential costs to the consumers for this service? I haven't heard anything other than Earthlink's $39.95/month (which isn't much cheaper than what I currently pay for cable). The only way cable and DSL will face any competition from BPL is if BPL is cheaper. Why pay for BPL if it's not cheaper or at least offers more bandwidth for the same price as cable or DSL?

    • Re:Competition? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by limpdawg (77844) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:05AM (#8374014) Homepage Journal
      One of the proposed uses for the technology is to reach rural areas where DSL and cable don't go. There are a lot of locations where people can only get one or the other type of broadband service and offering a third option will increase competition in places where there isn't any right now for broadband service.
    • by mekkab (133181) * on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:06AM (#8374021) Homepage Journal
      I assume BPL will take off in areas where cable modem/dsl aren't yet available. This will get the ball rolling. In these areas when Cable and DSL finally get there they will have some difficulty knocking out the incumbent.

      THEN- with some success/captial under its belt BPL will eventually start running specials and deals trying to under cut Cable/DSL in areas where those are already available.
    • Re:Competition? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nbvb (32836) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:06AM (#8374024) Journal
      What about if you live somewhere where there's no cable modem service, and you're too far from the CO for DSL?

      There's a LOT of areas like that in the US ... :)

      (Thank goodness I'm not in one of them!)
      • Then they obviously won't be in competition. You can't compete with someone if you're not even in the market.
      • Wireless Internet (Score:3, Informative)

        by texchanchan (471739)
        Wireless Internet service providers, such as the one I work for (Wiacomm [wiacomm.net], serving parts of North Texas), provide high-speed Internet to areas with no cable or DSL service. Several things distinguish WISPs from satellite: Generally it costs less, it's usually run by someone local, the lag is much smaller because the signal is going a few miles away, not to geosynchronous orbit, and. . . Wireless Internet works during bad weather!

        To find out more about wireless Internet:

    • Re:Competition? (Score:5, Informative)

      by RGautier (749908) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:13AM (#8374106) Homepage
      That's not true - DSL service is not available in many older suburban areas, much less rural areas. And cable service has virtually no competition in some of these areas, keeping pricing high. By offering BPL in these areas, cable will finally have competition.
    • Re:Competition? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cK-Gunslinger (443452)
      Yeah, I don't think much *competition* is going to take place between BPL and DSL/Cable. The battle is going to be between BPL and DirectWay et al.

      Despite the fact that BPL seems like a generally bad idea, if it is offered in my area, I will still probably jump all over it, as my only options are currently are 33.6 dialup for $10 (whihc I use now) or DirectWay satellite for like $80/month & $400+ in setup fees and equipment cost. Not to mention the lovely FAP. Although, many wireless line-of-sight p
    • Why pay for BPL if it's not cheaper or at least offers more bandwidth for the same price as cable or DSL?

      The only thing keeping me from disconnecting my land line and relying solely on my mobile phone for telephone communication is that my DSL modem is dependant on it. I'd happily switch even if there only was an alternative that costed more, as long as the extra cost would be less than the fixed costs of having a land line.
      I'm not sure how the situation is in the US, but here on the other side of the pon
    • Why pay for BPL if it's not cheaper or at least offers more bandwidth for the same price as cable or DSL?

      Because I'm hopeful it might interfere with all my neighbors cell phones and RF equipment. And because I don't like the cable or the phone companies.
  • Sound great.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by DjMd (541962) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:01AM (#8373966) Journal
    This sounds great I can't see any problems with this... Oh wait yes I do [slashdot.org]

  • by enrico_suave (179651) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:02AM (#8373968) Homepage
    The only problem with this solution is that when the power goes out you are going to lose your internet access.

    =)

    E.
    • You're joking, but even a small UPS can keep a DSL modem and WiFi base station going for a very long time; with a spare battery for my powerbook I've had net access through some fairly long blackouts. Of course, trying to power a desktop computer for 8 hours when your power's out requires something a bit more expensive than a small UPS.
      • Re:oh sure, great... (Score:5, Informative)

        by zerocool^ (112121) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:28AM (#8374299) Homepage Journal
        trying to power a desktop computer for 8 hours when your power's out requires something a bit more expensive than a small UPS.


        1.) Purchase small ups. Or, get one used from ebay.

        2.) Borrow someone's voltmeter.

        3.) Open UPS, figure out how much voltage the batteries have (ballpark - if it's 26, it probably means 24, I've never seen a UPS that had a voltage not a multiple of 12, 26 probably means charging voltage).

        4.) Unplug batteries. Hook wires up to battery plugs, snake wires outside of UPS.

        5.) Purchase 12 volt 135 amp-hour deep-cycle marine batteries (1 per 12 volts of ups battery, obviously). Alternatively, if you don't want to keep distilled water hanging around, go online or to a "battery store" (i.e. batteries plus) and buy sealed lead acid batteries (which probably will cost more for less amp-hours).

        6.) Wire up external batteries in series to bring total voltage to standard for UPS.

        Congratulations, your 12 amp-hour UPS has just been upgraded to 135 amp-hours. For more power, wire in additional serieses in paralell (not reccomended unless you have a good understanding of charging currents and regulation of power across battery banks).

        ~Will
        • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:37PM (#8375074) Homepage
          1:)The charging circuitry inside the UPS is designed only to charge the internal battery bank. By adding a huge string of internal batteries, you very well may be overloading the charger. 2:)The inverter circuitry inside the UPS is no doubt designed for limited duty cycle. Running it on a long-term basis (longer than the internal battery would have powered it) will require upgraded heatsinks on the switching transistors, and improved cooling fans. If the inverter transformer is also underrated for continuous use, you will need to forced-air cool it, as well.
          • 1.) Almost all UPS chargers, and certainly all that I've modded, charge by just pushing 1 or 2 extra volts down the line at a reasonable number of amps. Usually (load of attached equip + 2 amps or so). They charge as long as they are putting out under 26 volts (for 24 volt UPS's). When they hold 26-ish, the voltage from the unit drops to 24, and over time it equalizes. Plus, the amperage drops back to just what the equipment draws. There is no time factor here, it all just happens by natural laws of el
  • hmmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Em Emalb (452530) * <ememalb AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:02AM (#8373970) Homepage Journal
    Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?"

    I doubt it.
    However, if it decreases the market share, then I hope that will mean good things for all of us, lower rates. And that would be a good thing.
  • "Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?"

    I sure as heck hope so...maybe then we'll see broabdand prices dip a bit here in the US.
  • Hopefully, This technology will allow you to choose your own provider, similar to the way DSL does. I like my cable speeds and am not *THAT* unhappy with the service, but it would be nice to be able to choose some of the providers that offer more advanced services, such as true static IPs, control over forward and reverse DNS, and allowing servers.

  • Let's hope not... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CountBrass (590228) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:03AM (#8373984)

    Powerlines were not designed to carry RF. It'll bleed all over the spectrum and disrupt radio hams, cell phones, cordless phones, tv remotes and yes all those lovely WiFi and Bluetooth devices.

    And surprise surprise the FCC, the regulator, seems to have conveniently ignored these "inconveniences".

    See the ARRL web site for more objections and to give your support to their objects.

    Edward - Ham: M3EWK.

    • It'll bleed all over the spectrum and disrupt radio hams

      This just made my day. Exactly the reason why I come to /.

      Who needs Sci-Fi? :) :)
    • Well, normally I wouldn't want to support yet another broadband monopoly. However if I can make the rest of you suffer through these "inconveniences" it might be worth it. :)
  • BPL is vapourware! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by anonymous coword (615639) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:03AM (#8373989) Homepage Journal
    I keep hearing about this, every few months on slashdot about how "Broadband over Powerlines" are "just around the corner" or trialing! But every time they get cancled due to intererance and practibillity concerns! I wish slashdot would stop posting about it until it is actually being sold in the mainstream!
    • I first heard about it about 7 or 8 years ago. They actually ran a trial a few miles away from me, but abandoned it because the bandwidth sucked (they could only get ~10mb across it reliably and that had to be shared between all customers... it cost more to run the service than you could possibly get back in online charges).
      • They actually ran a trial a few miles away from me, but abandoned it because the bandwidth sucked (they could only get ~10mb across it reliably and that had to be shared between all customers...

        While many of the other problems inherent with BPL can be addressed, this may be the real show-stopper in urban/suburban areas. OFDM can probably be tailored to avoid particular pieces of spectrum in specific physical areas where interference is an issue (eg, ham operators). Several of the vendors of this type

  • Uptime (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UncleBiggims (526644) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:03AM (#8373991)
    Seems like this would be a great thing. How often has your power gone out versus your cable/dsl line. Power companies are uber-dedicated to providing power to their customers 24/7. And when the power is out they are all over it right away... unlike the cable company.

    Are you Corn Fed? [ebay.com]
    • Well lets see. I've had DSL for 5 years and I had one outage (that I noticed, anyway), which lasted about an hour. In that same time, my power has gone off for more than an hour about 10 times, with the longest being about 30 hours.

      I don't have cable or a cable modem, so I can't really judge their reliability, and my ISP is fairly small and very experienced (they only serve Pittsburgh and claim to be the world's 3rd ISP), so they're probably providing better service than the average huge ISP.

      In any

    • Re:Uptime (Score:2, Insightful)

      by UncleWalrus (734221)
      Firstly, my power goes out a million times more than my DSL ever has. Even if that weren't true for everyone, it's very naive to think that just because you still have power, your BPL will automatically still work. My DSL has gone out while still having a connection to my ISP. There are too many things along the line to just assume if one works, they all do.
    • The question I have is whether VoIP will be expected to provide the same level of universal access that we have with the phone system. I doubt it.

      Phone is a LOT more reliable than power. The public utilities are, in order of reliability:
      1. gas
      2. water
      3. phone
      4. electricity
      5. cable

      Damn...I used to have a list of average "uptimes" for them, but the URL is gone from my list. Stupid impermanent internet!

  • Good Lord (Score:3, Funny)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:04AM (#8374001) Homepage
    Man, how many slashdot articles can there be about this? It's worse than the "Mozilla browser almost done" articles that kept coming for almost three years.
    • Re:Good Lord (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Shipwright (175684)
      I am replying to your post over my 26.4 modem connection, 7 miles of copper from the CO. The cable operator in my country is the bankrupt Adelphia, they laugh and hang up when I call about timelines for getting service. Verizon would probably not provide even phone service to the farmers out here unless someone made them. BPL is my only hope for broadband. There cannot be enough articles about it.
  • Debug (Score:5, Funny)

    by wpiman (739077) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:05AM (#8374011)
    Self installation kit.... Take the black wire and white wire and stick this meter across the terminals. I wonder how many people will inadventently fry?
    • Probably an equal number of people who fry themselves plugging in a toaster, alarm clock, or any one of the hundreds of other household devices that plug into an outlet.
    • Self installation kit.... Take the black wire and white wire and stick this meter across the terminals. I wonder how many people will inadventently fry?

      Hopefully Jack Valenti, several people in the RIAA, Darl McBride, the entire Outlook and IIS development teams at Microsoft and Eric Raymond.

      Do I get a cookie?

  • Uncapping? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ravenspear (756059) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:07AM (#8374036)
    I can think of at least one advantage of BPL from the providers' POV. It would definitely discourage uncapping.
  • by theonlyholle (720311) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:08AM (#8374044) Homepage
    The problems that BPL causes are probably more serious than is good for a new technology. The problem of BPL causing a lot of interference with other services using a similar frequency spectrum have caused pretty much all major players who field-tested the technology in Germany to abandon it again. On the other hand, BPL technology is creeping into the airwaves through the backdoor anyway, as there are now more and more home-networking solutions using powerlines.
  • well (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CubeHard (661854)
    I have read that BPL has already been tested in other countries, with less than fantastic results. And while it would be able to help outlying areas, they could opt for satellite access, if they really wanted broadband. Also, would this put a strain on the already antiquated power infrastructure in America? But perhaps its implement would cause a slow infrastructure re-haul, as people would depend on the lines for more than just power now.
  • have got the maintenance of their lines down to a science. They've got all this slack time and it's not like the power lines are unduly taxed, stressed, in risk of imminent collapse. That's so ...2003.
  • by Fr05t (69968) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:10AM (#8374070)
    .. is play Duke Nukem Forever on my Phantom gaming console. I've heard this same thing so many times I have lost hope - especially since anyone that I talked to at my local power provider said they either never heard of it or don't care.

  • by hendridm (302246) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:10AM (#8374076) Homepage
    Is it that time of the year already? Wow, I guess it as been awhile since our last BPL-to-the-masses announcement. Maybe this year it will dethrone DNF for the #1 vaporware spot.
  • BPL has already been rejected in Japan and Austria, yet the PRO BPL lobby seem never to stop and in fact don't seem to care if it causes massive interference to HF as they view it as "OLD" technology. Well all you Pro BPL lobbyists out there, what will happen when the Satellite Network is knocked out by a meteor storm or severe solar storm, what will happen when the Internet is so full of Spam, Pirated Software (Warez), Pirated DVD's and CD's, Pornography, and streaming Audio and Video that the Net slows

  • Switzerland (Score:2, Informative)

    by roady (30728)
    We have had Powerline Communications (PLC) [eefpowernet.ch] in Switzerland since 2001 already.
    Sorry, the link is in French or German only.
  • by malchus842 (741252) <stephen@adamsemail.net> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:12AM (#8374096) Homepage
    and now the suggestion is for them to carry internet service? I see a number of issues here, not the least of which are:
    • Who pays to install the infrastructure? If it's the rate-payers, this will be a non-starter.
    • Who pays for the hardware at the customer end?
    • Why does the FCC seem to ignore the frequency problems?
    So, the proposal is to have mega-monopolies managing more infrastructure, delivering service that's not in their core area, and requiring huge infrastructre changes?

    Hmm. Why does this look bad? Especialy when the local power company has a horrible reputation for maintaining their existing power infrastructure. I think I'll pass on this one.
  • by CodeGorilla (691535) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:13AM (#8374107)
    How does the BPL handle connectivity around the transformers? Either they are using an RF bypass, or they are using a fiber bypass. Then comes the issue of maintenance. The RF units should be easier and cheaper to maintain, but they have durability issues compared to fiber. On the other hand, fiber bypasses are more expensive to install and maintain, but once in place, they should be more durable than the RF counterparts.

    Moreover, I *STILL* haven't seen specs for BPL which make it fiscally viable except for rural communities where cable/DSL/wireless have not yet penetrated.
  • How sad (Score:2, Funny)

    by jkabbe (631234)
    Enron must be rolling over in its grave!
  • by Kufat (563166) <`kufat' `at' `kufat.net'> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:14AM (#8374113) Homepage
    So I can download that Duke Nukem Forever ISO. They should be coming out at about the same time, I think.
  • Already here (Score:5, Informative)

    by PrionPryon (733902) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:14AM (#8374117)
    The city of Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario already has a functioning system as discussed in this article [thestar.com].
    • Re:Already here (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheSync (5291) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:18AM (#8374168) Journal
      This is interesting: "Wyant is quick to point out PUC won't be using power lines to deliver Internet access directly into the home. Instead, the company is installing wireless access points along its medium-voltage lines in densely populated residential areas."
  • BPL not shielded (Score:4, Insightful)

    by d4rkmoon (749223) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:17AM (#8374155)
    Yeah, it does trample HAMs and other FEMA frequencies. It doesn't help that they don't shield the wires from RF, so basically if there's any transmission across it, it blasts anyone for miles. Pretty stupid if you ask me. Now if they bothered to shield the wiring (likely event), then it might be worthwhile to consider. Unfortunately, that would never happen. Not really a practical solution.
    • if there's any transmission across it, it blasts anyone for miles.

      Hmm, packet sniffing, anyone?

      If their encryption is broken, with a little RF ingenuity, you'll be able to monitor packets from/to anyone in your area.

      And here we thought switched network had pretty much done away with the dangers of packet sniffing attacks; this brings them all back again!
  • by xstein (578798) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:18AM (#8374161)
    Hutchison Global Communications, a Hong Kong based telecommunications company and ISP, has been offering broadband internet access [hgc.com.hk] to Hong Kong residents over their power lines for over a year now [cnet.com].

    At downstream bandwidth upwards of 1.5mbits (and infrastructure to cater to upgrades of up to 10mbits) and at a cost of less than US$18/month, the service has been quite successful thus far, and as a subscriber, I cannot recall a single outage due to problems with the power lines (and not trouble at their network centres or regularly scheduled maintenance operations).
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:18AM (#8374166)
    Since BPL tramples on other RF applications, it suggests that one could sniff the packets. It looks like the adapters (like this one [buy.com]) do use encryption, but it is only 56-bit DES. Given that these connections are always-on, I wonder how long it would take to accumulate enough data to break the code. And if you know the email address of the victim, could one send a structured email that helps uncover the key?
  • Though... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RedShoeRider (658314) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:19AM (#8374178)
    ...line spikes are a pretty common problem in most of the country (or at least out in the woods where I am), and must run a UPS or line supressor on everything that I value that's plugged into a wall. Assuming that I had a broadband over powerline modem, it would need the wall outlet for both power and for signal. That's a given.

    So say I put one of my UPS's on the line (such as a TrippLite w/ISOBAR, which are really great for line noise supression)...does that mean my signal gets filtered out? So I have to leave the line unsupressed, and everytime we have a lightning strike in the area (at least 3-4 times a year), I'm calling the electric company to cmoe replace another fried modem? Do I have to purchase a special ($$$$) supressor from the electric company that has a bandgap filter just for that frequency?

    Seems as if there are too many variables once you are inside the house, nevermind the problems with Ham bands, Bluetooth, etc.

  • Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?

    Sure. As long as it's not going to cost me $50+/mo and doesn't require a contract.

    Now, if it comes out in my market and costs considerable less than RoadRunner, I'll switch.

    That is, unless TXU (my electric provider) then becomes my ISP as well. Why would I switch from RR's shitty customer service to TXUs shitty customer service? Would a price drop be worth dealing with a whole new set of morons?
  • by Skrekkur (739061) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:23AM (#8374221)
    I dont understand what the fuzz is about, around broadband over powerlines. It has been in use here in iceland for quite the while now, and my experience of it, is that its laggy (around 500 ms) and the speed is rather unstable, since its based on how many are using it at the moment. I admit its rather cool to connect your modem into a powersocket instead of a phonesocket but its not much more than that, here at least adsl 1,5 mbit is cheaper, and faster, the only thing power has over that is it uploads as fast as it downloads.
  • The venture set up a test in Manchester, England, but soon discovered a snag in its technology: Neighboring lampposts were picking up data signals and rebroadcasting them as radio waves.

    Coming soon to a lamppost near you, pr0n.

    http://hot-action.lamppostpr0n.elec/
  • interference (Score:2, Interesting)

    Its easy for people who lives in areas where dsl or cable or something even better is available, that BPL is bad, it will interfere with ham and wifi stuff and whatnot.
    Personally I can't say I will be too sad if my neighbour can't play with his ham radio anymore, if that means that I can ditch my modem (with the crappy lines out here, 28k8 max). Yay FCC, for once.

    I'm a layman in the area, but if the interference is WAY too bad, can't they install some sort of noisereducing filters on the repeaters? Or wil
  • Fibre (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Draoi (99421) <.moc.cam. .ta. .thcoiard.> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:31AM (#8374318)
    Here in Ireland, our national electricity org, in an uncharacteristic moment of foresight, bundled fibre optic cables along with its high-power lines. No RF bleedoff issues, no crossover problems, etc, etc. The network was already there & it was just a matter of phasing in the fibre when upgrading lines. They did this very, very quietly indeed!

    Link here [www.esb.ie] for those interested.

    Now all we need is for our national telco [eircom.ie] to roll out ADSL in a meaningful [irelandoffline.org] kinda way ... :-/

  • by dtio (134278) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:31AM (#8374322)
    In some residential areas of Madrid (Spain) you can currently get a symetric (600 Kbps upload and download) internet access via power lines for 39 euros/month. Here they call this technology Power Line Communications (PLC) but I think it's the same as BPL.

    I don't know how it works though, I use regular DSL access.

    You can get more info here: http://www.neo.es (in spanish).
  • by MC68040 (462186) <henric AT digital-bless DOT com> on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:40AM (#8374402) Homepage
    Vendors like D-link (who are a major home-user internet router, switches, wlan gateways etc vendor) has already started since some time a BPL modem manufacturing line.
    The modems are available for import from china currently, and they're quite affordable.

    Just though it might be interesting, as the technology is already in use in some parts of the world so that everything is "there" that needs to be there for it to be implented.
  • by ikeee (689351) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @11:53AM (#8374569)
    since we are looking into every single line that runs into houses to bring internet to homes, are water lines going to be next? How about pulsating water like morse code to transmit data, or better salinate it so that it can carry electricity?
    • Well, that isn't quite so far out as you might think.

      Here in the UK we have quite a lot of canals left over from the early industrial revolution, and as many of these predate railways they tend to be small in size, but with a much more extensive network than in countries where canal building started later. They're not used for freight now really, but in recent years there's been quite a boon in the leisure industry and many have been restored.

      Obviouly though the state company that owns them - British Wat
  • by bonnyman (662966) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:03PM (#8374685) Homepage
    There are many confused and mis-informed comments on this subject here. If someone's really interested, they can take about 15 minutes to read the actual text [fcc.gov] of the FCC's notice of proposed rule making (NPRM).

    I've got more background [blogspot.com] on my blog, which cover BPL, FTTH and wireless broadband news. (You can also search the archives using the built-in search function).

    Finally, the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology had a draft article [fcc.gov] on the technology and legal issues that was posted on the FCC's web site a month or two ago.
  • Luke Stewart makes millions selling this idea to congress [wired.com]
    The concept is a bad one. It's impractical. The people who say they have the technology never do.
    You've been had.
  • by callermann (629230) * on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @12:12PM (#8374793) Homepage
    First of all, I am a licensed Ham..but for the sake of the argument I am taking off my ham hat. While a majority of hams think that we have a signifigant say in what goes on...we really don't. Anyways...moving right along... I am still in shock that the FCC has allowed BPL to prevail. Especially with the number of entities opposing it...Comercial Broadcasters (TV, FM radio, AM Radio and shortwave), The military (they still use HF), The coast guard (all vessels over a certain length are required to have a HF radio), the Airline industry, FEMA, and local public safety (yes some Police, Fire and EMS crews use VHF low-band still), oh an yeah us hams. Just goes to show you how much powrer lobby groups have (but thats an issue for another article).

  • Could cable and DSL face a new competitor in the broadband market in the near future?

    Ham radio will face a new competitor called broadband noise once Earthstink cranks up these hash generators.
  • by El (94934)
    now how will I surf the 'net when the power lines go down? Uh, hold on... never mind!
  • by Newer Guy (520108) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @02:52PM (#8376876)
    It's bad enough that our 2.4 gig band is already saturated by wifi, cordless phones and microwave ovens...or half our 220 band was taken from us and then hardly used...or our 40 meter band is so overrun with high power SW broadcasters it's unusable...or our 10 meter band is half taken over by CBers running illegal high power on illegal frequencies...or that we have to be constantly vigilant that the rest of our UHF spectrum isn't taken away. NOW you want to destroy our entire HF spectrum too..along with short wave broadcasting. Don't any of you understand that power lines make great HF antennas? Or that at HF frequencies with an efficient antenna all you need is 100 milliwatts (.1 watt) to be heard across the world? Just imagine what THOUSANDS of these BPL transmitters running one watt or more will do to the shortwave bands worldwide! Plus, other countries use HF for broadcasting. Just because we happen not to here in the USA doesn't mean we have the right to destroy their radio stations with hash interference. Please...PLEASE...leave us alone for once!

It appears that PL/I (and its dialects) is, or will be, the most widely used higher level language for systems programming. -- J. Sammet

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