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Broadband Over Power Lines in Canada 254

Patchw0rk F0g writes "From Europe, we jump to la belle province of Quebec for the latest test of broadband internet over power lines (Real Player stream available.) Seems the utility is already utilizing the system to control traffic lights and such, and is exploring the possibilities of offering a cheaper service to consumers to compete with DSL/cable/satellite. Lower prices? I'm all for it... but I live in TORONTO!"
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Broadband Over Power Lines in Canada

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  • by Kymermosst ( 33885 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:03AM (#7546175) Journal
    Anyone know if they've done any work on the issues with BPL and interference on the HF bands?

    I, for one, do not welcome the interference from BPL in the HF bands.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:30AM (#7546253)
      I just got an arrl newsletter telling all of their members to contact their congressmen and tell them what a bad idea this is. Apparently, according to ARRL research, broadband over powerlines causes significant interference not just in ham bands but across the spectrum. Although I havn't exactly looked at the research in detail, I can't see how the power companies could avoid interference. Powerlines aren't shielded, and for any reasonable bandwidth to be passed through the powerlines, the frequency would have to be high enough that a significant amount of power would have to be used. Unshielded wire is always agood antenna, and for some situations the best. Granted it won't be well tuned, but I've seen worse situations cause a lot of interference. My home is near high voltage power lines (read a large part of San Francisco's power) and even at 60hz, I get interfering harmonics all the way up into 10 meters. Avoiding electrical grid contamination is something every ham has fought with. Hopefully I'm wrong, but unless there is some way of preventing interference, this seems like one of those thngs that will be really good for pacbell and really bad for the rest of the wireless world.
      • I havent read any info on this (which would probably be a good idea...) but is the idea to use the powerlines as a broadcast medium for broadband, or just as a means of plugging into it (literally)?

        I had always thought the latter, since there is already a 'signal' of sorts going thru the power cables, even if it isnt being focused into anything (nor would the current equipment support it if it could).

        I guess I was thinking of this as an industrial-sized "HomePNA" spec.

        • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday November 24, 2003 @04:42AM (#7546393) Homepage Journal
          BPL works by using the power lines as the medium for a radio-frequency modem. The problem is that the power lines work as antennas to radiate that radio frequency into their surroundings. You can't really "focus" it. It just goes into the air, and tends not to go down the wire where you want it since the power line is so bad a medium for high frequencies. So you have to use lots of power, which means a very strong signal in the air.

          And of course the BPL providers don't care how much they pollute the radio spectrum.

          Bruce

        • by Myself ( 57572 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @06:16AM (#7546564) Journal
          Phone lines are twisted, so they don't tend to radiate much of the radio energy that's poured into them. HomePNA kicks out some noise but it's nothing compared to BPL.

          Power lines are widely spaced, unevenly spaced, and not twisted. From the perspective of a radio signal, power lines are not transmission lines: they're antennae! BPL also works over much longer distances than HomePNA, meaning that the power levels involved are much larger. Dumping tons of RF onto the power grid will simply turn it into a massive radio jammer.

          John Q. Public should be worried. In times of civic emergency, ham radio operators need all the spectrum they can get. Find a local amateur radio club and attend a meeting -- you'd be surprised how much stuff goes on behind the scenes. Hams are hobbyists, refining their equipment and honing their skills "for fun", but then swinging into action during emergencies to maintain communications when other methods fail.

          Destroying a large chunk of the radio spectrum will not help anyone. BPL is technically inferior to cable and DSL, and it's only being hyped by those who see opporunity for profit without regard for technical or civic responsibilities.
          • Just a slight nit in the above - Power lines ARE twisted - but once every 4 or 5 poles.

            I'm a ham also - and BPL is an on-coming disaster that we don't need.

            73
          • In times of civic emergency, ham radio operators need all the spectrum they can get.

            Not just ham radio operators. These bands are used by everyone, including fire & rescue, police, utility companies, military, etc. Not everyone has switched to Nextel for two-way communication! It's actually quite shocking that the FCC is even persuing this since the RF pollution is so pronounced across the whole spectrum.

    • Yeah, The ARRL (www.arrl.org) has been fighting BPL for quite some time now. If BPL is done incorrectly, it could prove to be very bad for TV, Radio (amateur and commercial), local communications, but great for cable companies and landline phone companies.
    • I, for one, do not welcome the interference from BPL in the HF bands.


      Well, I, for one, welcome our interference creating overlords.
    • Maybe someone can clear this FUD for me. Would'nt the possible interference exists only if they use the same frequency range for power-line transmission than the one used for TV/radio/whatever transmission?

      I doubt that the FCC and CRTC (in Canada) would allow such a power-line broadband service if it was interfering with existing broadcasts signals anyway.

      Remember when PC chip approached the GHz, there was a bunch of people that were fearing they would interfere with TV and other applicance? None of that
      • Remember when PC chip approached the GHz, there was a bunch of people that were fearing they would interfere with TV and other applicance? None of that happened.

        actually, the things that happened were much sooner than that. Back in the bad old days of S. 100 bus systems, there was significant interference to radio and television. If there was a computer turned on, FM radios and over the air television was useless. The FCC stepped in and required certification for emissions levels. As result you'll now

        • Just a sidenote, military frequencies sometimes seem to interfere with Cable modems as well.

          I had 20% packet loss for 2 weeks here during business hours only, until the cable company finally realized that the frequency used on my modem was being interfered by military radio signals in the area
      • A bunch of people are also using the X10 protocol to control lights/appliances in there home... Wait, there is no interference with broadcast signals!

        X10 inserts data into the 60Hz frequency of Alternating Current in your home wiring. So, any signal generated is already at the frequency of AC, which the whole world has had to filter out of RF sensitive boxes for years. X10 "interferes" with AC, which no one tries to listen to anymore.

        There are plenty of things that interferes with X10, by the way, as

  • by Hanzie ( 16075 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:05AM (#7546179)
    It actually seems to work. I've seen 'demonstrations' before where it couldn't even control traffic lights.

    If they're actually doing anything, it's a success, and it just needs scaling up. Even if it's a totally shared bus network, it could have _some_ uses. Just depends on what speed is available and what it's really going to cost to get hooked in.

    I'd be a bit worried about the surges, though. Remember that a lightning bolt has already jumped through a mile or three (or more) of air, and blowing through your surge protector to eat your favorite game box isn't much more of a step.

    Yes, I know that power systems have exactly the same problem, it's just that they're generally designed to absorb small spikes, and sometimes folks forget the modem is another route for bored electrons.

    Best of luck to 'em.
    • by pVoid ( 607584 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:13AM (#7546199)
      While I applaud your educated warning at us poor users, I would like to remind you that we're not gonna plug the cable right out of the power grid into our ethernet card.

      There most likely will be a modem of some sort that connects to the plug and has an ethernet output. Such a device is just as vulnerable but not any more vulnerable than any other electric device.

      Also, I don't know what you talk about: bandwidth? Electric wires probably have monstruous bandwidth. The wires are made to carry much more current than a phone line was ever designed to, and most probably much more than a coax cable as well. Something tells me the bandwidth is going to be several orders of magnitude higher than conventional lines we're used to.

      • by pe1rxq ( 141710 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:22AM (#7546234) Homepage Journal
        Bandwidth has nothing to do with the current through a line (or not much....)
        A normal power line has been designed for 50hz (or 60hz) AC. A coax cable was designed for frequencies in the Mhz to Ghz range. A telephone line was designed for atleast several Khz (speach).
        The dampening of a power line will be far greater than a coax cable.
        The same is for shielding. A power line is very suceptable for interference from the outside and can radiate itself far more. That is why greater bandwidth (higher frequencies) will be a huge problem on these lines.
        Simply put: They weren't designed for this.

        Jeroen
        • Bandwidth has nothing to do with the current through a line (or not much....)

          Doesn't that depend on what type of "bandwidth" you are talking about? If you're talking about bandwidth in the traditional "frequency-response" sense (e.g. bandwidth of a filter), then yes, it doesn't matter how much power you send over the lines, the bandwidth of the same.

          But if you mean "bandwidth" in the sense of number of bits transmitted per second (which is really channel capacity, not bandwidth, though it's a function of
          • Exactly... That is the not much part of my earlier post.

            What you are refering to is Shannon's law which describes the relation between the energy per bit, the noise and the resulting signal to noise ratio.
            In this equation a larger bandwidth results in more noise (as noise is spread accross the entire spectrum).

            The only way to increase the bitrate (which is what we want) is by building a better receiver (which can cope with a lower SNR) or by using more power.
            You can get a greater bitrate without more band
            • Also another point though, is that there are several 'areas' in power lines. We get 110V, but really distribution occurs at much higher voltages. I wouldn't be surprised if the transformers would start being equiped with some sort of router-like device to filter out only what is destined for you once it goes down to the consumer level of electricity...

              I'll admit though, I don't have a clue on how they're doing this... I'm just talking straight out of my ass.

        • Aren't power cables just like UTP -- as in they're unsheilded twisted pairs? Interference would be addressed similarly, surely.
          • For any effective shielding in the higher frequency ranges they would have to be twisted every few centimeters (as CAT5 is).
            Power cables are nowhere near UTP.
            Often they are not twisted at all (not needed for 50Hz)
            UTP also has a known impedance (100 Ohm for unshielded CAT5), power cables have unknown (and thus unmatched) impedance for high frequencies since there is no standard for that.
            High frequency interference is not addressed because it never was an issue, its that simple.

            Jeroen
  • Nortel (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnnyComeLately ( 725958 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:05AM (#7546180) Homepage Journal
    As a telecom Engineer working as a sys and network admin, this just sounds too out there to be viable. Nortel isn't one to trash a technological standard unless they've really tested it. There's quite a few issues with power spikes, power filters, etc that would seem to make this an unlikely competitor. Plus, the market is already crowded with cable, DSL, satellite, and wireless carriers (Sprint) providing WiFi ISP coverage.
  • by Gary Destruction ( 683101 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:11AM (#7546192) Journal
    Power loss will also mean communication loss. If a business is using broadband instead of T1, they risk losing communication in the event of a power failure. Sure, they probably have a UPS but that's not going to keep their WAN links alive.

    It's very scary to think of so many things being handled by one main line.
    • A single point of failure sounds much better than a multitude, any of which can bring things down.

      If the power is gone, the communications are gone anyways, so where is the issue?

    • and if the T1 goes down they have no connection, and if whatever provides their other connection has its pole knocked down or cables dug up they lose their connection. All this is, is another possible connection, if connectivity is vital to your business then you will have a backup plan. If not you probably have a cheap ups that will back up data then shut down the machine int the 5 mins you have anyway. Or nothing and you will curse the f**king power company and read a magazine. It's just another option.
  • redundancy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nounderscores ( 246517 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:13AM (#7546198)
    I like BPL as an interim solution before we get fiber to our houses, but in the end I *want* three cables going into my home - power, data and voice. Note that data and voice are separate. I also like having a landline and a cell phone.

    Whenever I hear about multiple utilities becoming reliant on one system of infrastructure I always think of that telco parody which starts with:

    "Hello? AT&T? I seem to be having problems with my phone..."
    • The ideal solution would be one where you have three cables running to your house... from three different companies, each carrying power, data and voice. (Rather than one cable from each from a monopoly supplier.)

      That way you would get good competition and double redundancy! Not going to happen in my lifetime though.
    • Why bother with a landline these days? I haven't had one for about three years. What's the point of having a phone attached to the wall with 6 feet of wire? What happens if you're not at home?
      • Conversely, what's the point of a cell phone if I always turn it off or leave it at home whenever I leave because I don't want to be bothered by someone I don't really want to talk to anyway while I'm out?

        Emergency, pfft. I'll keep my cheap old landline thanks.
        • But landlines are expensive, mobiles are cheap. And they have caller ID, you can just ignore people.
          • But landlines are expensive, mobiles are cheap.

            Speak for yourself. My cellular phone service with nothing but voicemail was $35/mo base. My landline with equivalent features is lucky to break that even when you include long distance calls.

            And they have caller ID, you can just ignore people.

            For an additional fee? Sure. I can again do that cheaper on my land line. $0.50/mo. vs $1.00/mo.

            (all figures in Canadian dollars)
            • I take it from the dollar sign you're American? I didn't realise you even had mobile phones over there. My mobile phone is 15 pounds (***** FOR FUCK'S SAKE, SLASHDOT JANITORS, FIX YOUR FUCKING SITE. WHY CAN'T WE USE HTML ENTITIES? *****) per month, including 100 minutes of free calls every evening (which is when I phone people, mostly), and caller ID is standard on all UK mobile phone services, not something you pay extra for. You need to get your phone companies fixed.
    • Note that data and voice are separate

      Duly noted. But why? Except for the last mile, the infrastructure of data networks and voice networks is conceptually the same, more or less. Packet switching is king.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:14AM (#7546204)
    Swedish company Sydkraft also offers the service.

    Sydkraft announced a copule of years ago that they would provide Internet over power line. Except for a small pilot project nothing ever happened.

    The reality is that PLC might be technically possible, but the cost of deployment is much higher than compeeting technologies such as: ADSL, Cable Internet and Wireless Local Loop (WLL).

    It seams that power companies like to run trials to test the technology, and make unrealistic press releases.

  • I live in Montreal (Score:4, Informative)

    by RobPiano ( 471698 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:17AM (#7546215)
    I live in Montreal, but I'm from Chicago. The prices on broadband here are a factor of two less than chicago and many places offer nice features like a static IP. In general the net is faster than I had with similar service in the states.
    • I live in Montreal as well, but I am from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. You mention a static IP. Which provider offers that? I would like to know.
      • IStop.ca. Based in Ottawa. CAD$4/month for a static IP. Read about them on can.internet.highspeed. You'll find the audience is almost bipolar: they love 'em, or they hate 'em. I'm in Toronto and I've been using them for 2 years (since I first able to switch from Sympatico). The 3Mbs service is pretty reasonable.
  • Please bring this to Alberta! :)
  • by Space Coyote ( 413320 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:24AM (#7546241) Homepage
    But it's to be expected, as they have the most advanced powerlines going. Remember that little blackout y'all had last Summer? As soon as the loss of power hit the Quebec border the chain reaction was stopped cold by the connections to the Quebec system. People in Ottawa could look across to the bright lights of Hull just next door. This is thanks to the massive rebuilding that was required after the 1998 ice storm. Having to transmit power from damns way up north down to the south (the longest-distance power lines in the world, i believe) also means they had to learn how to deal with the effects of solar flares on power transmission. So basically if anybody knows about the issues that affect power lines, it's these guys.
    • Yeah you're right for this summer blackout: Hydro-Quebec has a firewall-like system that detected the power loss and blocked the chain reaction. I believe only Quebec and California have these kinds of systems. Hydro-Quebec has a world-famous expertise in long-run power transmission lines because Quebec gets his power from hydroelectricity and the dams are really, really far from the big cities (The Baie James dam is 1000km from Montreal) So, if some power company has to offer internet access, is has to b
    • (the longest-distance power lines in the world, i believe) also means they had to learn how to deal with the effects of solar flares on power transmission. So basically if anybody knows about the issues that affect power lines, it's these guys.

      I live in Ottawa and work in Gatineau (Hull). While the power did go out in Ottawa for 24 hours this summer, the power in Quebec goes out for a few seconds to a few minutes quite regularly. It's quite a pain in the ass. I'd rather have a one-day outage every 25 y
  • by Evets ( 629327 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:26AM (#7546246) Homepage Journal
    It reminds me of a scam run on the US Government in the late 90's. Millions of dollars were granted to a company which had demonstrated such a system. Turns out it was nothing more than a RF modem.

    As I recall, the system was immune to scrutiny in order to protect the Intellectual Property of the company.

    Also... I remember several people citing the impossibility of broadband over power lines because of the interference caused by transformers on the above ground power lines. In order to enable broadband over power lines, you would have to either find a way to sustain a pure signal through the existing hardware (deemed impossible), or design and add a piece of hardware at every transformer.

    I read about this in Wired if anyone cares to go searching for it. The article was entitled Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, printed at some point in 2002, but I was unsuccessful in locating the article in a brief attempt at searching their online archive.
  • It's not all good... (Score:5, Informative)

    by JimDog ( 443171 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:31AM (#7546255)
    I think it's been mentioned here on slashdot before, but broadband-over-powerline systems have many drawbacks. Because power lines are not shielded, they will act as very effective radiating antennas for the signals they carry. Many of the proposed broadband systems utilize frequency ranges that overlap military, emergency, commercial and amateur radio bands, with the potential to cause a great deal of harmful interference to users of those services. Many countries, including Japan, the UK, and the Netherlands have already rejected broadband-over-powerline technology for this reason. Check out this page for more info:
    http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/
    • by Gimble ( 21199 )

      Not at all true for the UK. SSE is going ahead with commercial trials in Stonehaven and Winchester, after earlier technology trials in Crieff and Cambeltown.

      See the SSE site [hydro.co.uk] for more info and an interview on ISPReview (2 articles) here [ispreview.co.uk] and here [ispreview.co.uk]

  • by tritone ( 189506 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:36AM (#7546267) Homepage
    What a great opportunity for an enterprising geek to win a Darwin award by hooking his computer up to an overhead power line!
  • by lewko ( 195646 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:45AM (#7546286) Homepage
    I can't WAIT to see AOL users shoving Ethernet cables into their power socket.

    "You've got Bzzzztttttaaaarrrrggghhhhhhhhhh"
  • Toronto eh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @03:56AM (#7546301) Journal
    Well, then perhaps soon we'll see people tapping into power lines instead of wardriving for illegal pr0n [slashdot.org].

    Seriously though... a power-line is fairly noisy and/or is accessible to the general masses, more so than a phone-line. How does one tag an ID on individual customers (a meter is generally read manually?).

    If it were integrated into meters the meter-reader could be out of the job, but could people bypass the meter and pull a little fancy hackery in order to get onto the power co's network? I could see spammers and other illegal users try to take advantage of this...
  • BPL pollution (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <bruce@perens.com> on Monday November 24, 2003 @04:25AM (#7546360) Homepage Journal
    BPL makes a total mess of the wireless spectrum wherever it's used. HF receivers are 10 dB over S-9 with the interference. There are lots of users of that HF spectrum. And of course the BPL promoters attitude is "F**k-you, wireless users! We've got money to be made, and if it causes you pollution, that's too damn bad!"

    The fact is that even DSL causes interference, because the twisted-pair phone wires weren't designed to convey those high frequencies and leak like a sieve. Now, go to power lines, which are not twisted-pair, have no form of shielding whatsoever, and simply aren't designed for frequencies over 60 Hz. They radiate like antennas.

    Traffic lights take very little bandwidth to operate, generally they are on a 200 KHz system that works like the X-10 switches many people have in their homes. It's not good for much more. The claims of greater bandwidth than cable or DSL are absurd.

    Bruce

    • Re:BPL pollution (Score:2, Informative)

      by w9wi ( 162482 )
      It is interesting to note that a proposal for a new amateur radio band at 136KHz (available in many other countries) was denied by the FCC [arrl.org] earlier this year. The Commission felt amateurs would be unable to make effective use of the band because of excessive interference from existing power-line communications at the lower frequencies. They also feared that amateur transmissions in this band would interfere with the power companies' low-frequency communications.

      Yet now, the utilities feel they can use sho
  • by XenonChloride ( 718512 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @04:34AM (#7546376)
    While the article states:
    German utilities company RWE started offering Internet service over power lines the summer of 2001...
    it fail to mention that this service went out of business again in summer 2002.
    • I work for RWE, there has been a lot of restructuring recently. Some things that they own don't fit into their overal business plan. They are selling/closing these things as is the norm in these situations.

      Informative? Maybe if you gave a reason. We don't know that it was a failure.
  • Denmark experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by spectrokid ( 660550 )
    It was proposed here in DK and I remember an article stating success depends very much on the type of infrastructure already present. What kind of cables have been laid out, neutral or no neutral, etc... For all those discussing transformers and high voltage lines: this is strictly a last-mile technology: you need fiber to AFTER the last transformer! In this sense, a power failure does (theoretically) not necessarely have to bring the network down, even if the low end receivers will probably get their pow
  • Security concerns? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ghideon ( 720955 )
    Didn't Linksys or Netgear (or one of the other SOHO network gear mfrs) have something similar to this for LANs? I remember reading a while back about these units (basically ethernet via the wall sockets) and there seemed to be an issue regarding security. Like your neighbor being able to sniff your traffic. Would someone who knows about this mind explaining a little more? Especially on a grander scale such as is being discussed?
    • by VTdude ( 526304 )
      The HomePlug [homeplug.org] devices by the Linksys, NETGEARs, Belkins, and D-Links of the world are for home networking and use *much* lower power levels than BPL. HomePlug also has deep notches for the HAM bands; amateur radio operators actually like the stuff.

      -Off Topic Reply ghideon-

      What stops HomePlug signals cold is the step-down transformer. In the US there is an average of 4 homes per transformer where you are potentially sharing a connection. Better than wireless, and the software utility lets you count how man

  • Security Issues? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shonufftheshogun ( 620824 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @04:55AM (#7546417)
    Does this seem scary to anyone else that these traffic lights would be internet accessible? If some script kiddies decided to have some fun, lives could be lost.
    • Nobody said the traffic lights would be internet accessible. The lights and the internet service are on completely different frequencies on the line (like cable internet and cable TV, or DSL and voice), so you'd need a traffic light controller device operating on the traffic light frequency to control the lights, like you need a TV tuner to access cable TV and a cable modem to access the internet. However, obtaining or emulating a traffic light controller could get interesting.
  • Been done before (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Scottish Hydro [hydro.co.uk] has already done this.
  • by zeptic ( 323902 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @05:23AM (#7546466)
    Here in Denmark several projects about bringing Broadband to users through powerlines has been abanded. The costs up-front for the avarage user are just to high compared to establishing an ADSL-connection.

  • It's great that they can control traffic lights, but that requires a bandwidth measured in a few bits per second. Not megabits, like you can get over a regular copper phone line. It's not "broadband" by any means.

    I know that marketing of technology requires a really aggressive stance, but this would be like saying that jet airplane flights are just around the corner, because they've perfected the stone wheel. It took a few more fundamental developments (and new delivery methods) to make that jump!

  • TCP/IP over electricity lines is all so backwards and 90's. It's electricity over TCP/IP lines [faqs.org] that is interesting today.

    There's even a spec out (RFC3251) for public interoperability.

    When will these people learn to keep up with the time around them?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 24, 2003 @06:57AM (#7546658)
    The power company in iceland already has this service upp and running, www.fjoltengi.is although you probably wont understand it,
    They claim a speed of 4mb/s but say that it can drop to 256kb/s at most.

    Costs about $40 us a month, and only 50Gb download is included. (Inside Iceland)
  • by peter_gzowski ( 465076 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @07:46AM (#7546808) Homepage
    then you probably have cheap enough DSL. There are 66 DSL providers, according to Canadian ISP [canadianisp.com]. I don't know how much cheaper than $20 CDN (that's about $15 USD) you can expect. You can expect to pay $30 CDN for higher-than-average speeds (1700kb/s down, 300kb/s up), and/or no caps. Let's see power line internet beat that.
  • by JackRabbitSlims ( 662511 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @08:21AM (#7546970)
    The main electricity companies in Spain are already given service or close to do it (depending on the company) on cities like Zaragoza, Barcelona or Sevilla.
    Article in spanish here [el-mundo.es] and Babelfish translation to english here [altavista.com].
  • February 18, 2003

    Nothing makes me more suspicious than old, recycled news pretending to be new news and released under weird circumstances. In this case, I'm referring to the recent "news" about power-line networking. This, in fact, is a technology I've been hearing about for 20 years. Its strange and sudden promotion by the government is ominous.

    Old technology. It began on January 16 with an Associated Press article reporting that federal officials (the FCC) think that power-line networking "may become t
  • Broadband over power lines (PLC, Power Line Communications as we call it) is also being offered [dsturku.net] in Turku, the former capital of Finland.

    There has been quite a lot of resistance due to PLC possibly interfering short wave radio signals and other electric devices nearby. That has made radio amateurs and DX listeners talk against this in the publicity. However, the service in Turku seems to be operating pretty well.

  • by plcurechax ( 247883 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @09:15AM (#7547273) Homepage
    It has been trialled enough times around the world with no critical mass of market share that like the video-telephone it will not successfull ever.

    A large scale roll out will more likely than not generate unacceptable (according to existing law [ic.gc.ca], of unlicensed and in this case unintended radiators) intereference with various licensed spectrum users including government, military, and amateur [www.rac.ca] voice and data communications.

  • Scottish hydro electric do a 2Mb up & down service. We're still stuck on ISDN here but I've heard that the HE service is very very fast, and cheaper than 2Mbit cable or DSL services.

    http://www.hydro.co.uk/broadband/index.asp
  • "Seems the utility is already utilizing the system to control traffic lights and such"

    I may be wrong, but wouldn't this be a really bad idea? Controling an entire system like your traffic system with a medimum that is, well pretty open to many attacks seems like a pretty bad idea.

  • Insane! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Oodi ( 565922 )
    BPL is insane! Everywhere they a pilot project has been done it was shown that there is significant RF noise to interfere in huge chunks of radio spectrum. Whomever thought up the brilliant idea to transmit RF via unbalanced unshielded wire over the power grid should be... (I will leave medieval torture methods to your imagination)...
  • Really bad idea. (Score:3, Informative)

    by StillNeedMoreCoffee ( 123989 ) on Monday November 24, 2003 @11:15AM (#7548237)
    Several things come to mind. Most cable systems provide seperate feeds to local areas, usually using a broadcast protocol I believe, with one feed linked to one server.

    Also our local cable (Chicago area) came around and knocked on the door, they had to go around and check for RF leakage. I had a segment of my internal distribution that was not up to spec and radiated too much. They changed that part of the system and brought the emissions back in line with the specifications they had to operate under.

    There is an issue with frequency/channel capacity and length of cable. The data we send is square waves which can be thought of as actually an infinite series of sine waves added together to give you the square wave shape. So square waves are rich in harmonics, and those different frequencies actually travel along the wire at slightly differnt speeds, which fuzzes the signal out over a distance. Like ethernet cables have an effective maximum length of what is it 100 ft or so for good signal quality.

    So for pure data you need to put repeaters inline over distance to re-generate the signal. For long hauls you modulate the signals with a purer tone but still you have to detect the transistions which slows down your effect speed.

    So the claim that it could be 5 times faster than cable makes little sense.

    With the powerlines you have one fairly connected system that it would be hard to seperate out segments
    to balance the load for one ethernet segment. You have a problem when you have too many people contending for the the broadcast time.

    I suspect they the scheme is really, like DSL just an end point distribution system like dsl or cable, just tapping into local isolated segments of the power to provide ethernet segment access to households.

    I live under one of the flight paths to Ohare airport. I would hate to think the lighting up the grid with internet traffic could land one of those jumbo jets on my roof.
  • The RF interference issue is of somewhat broader significance than to just ham and CB radio operators, who will essentially be knocked off the air by BPL:

    But some broadcasters use electrical wires as antennas for radio signals and are concerned that the internet signals could interfere with radio and television reception.

    Broadcast expert Jacques Bouliane said the internet signal could completely ruin television reception.

    "Even if you don't subscribe to the service, you would get interference from it," h

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