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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Sunday, August 17, 2003


Recent powerline broadband developments

Recent powerline broadband developments

While I've been tied up with a particularly challenging fiber system design this past week, powerline broadband technology has gotten some more attention. In particular, the American Radio Relay League's recent video of powerline broadband radio interference was "Slashdotted" -- the influential site picked it up as a news story, prompting, at last count, over 580 comments on its' discussion board.

Karl Bode, always worth reading, weighed in with his own story "Progress at Any Cost? Radio Hobbyists feel trampled under foot". He also posted a link to the American Public Power Association's comments on powerline broadband, pointing out its' potential to bring broadband to millions of Americans in small towns underserved by telcos or cable companies. (The APPA is the trade group for America's municipal power utilities.) Karl's article has several useful links and it, in turn, provoked close to 200 comments on the discussion boards.

In many cases, people posting comments on these discussion boards questioned whether powerline broadband really works, especially given all the hype generated by early trials few years ago that turned into spectacular failures. The fact is that powerline broadband today works as evidenced by the decision made by early adopter of's technology to extend their trial network to the entire city. Manassas Electric, the city-owned power utility in Manassas, Virginia, announced they will expand their network based on the success of their trial, which has been underway for some time. (We have a lot of respect for John Hewa's technical abilities; he's the new Assistant Director at Manassas Electric, having previously been with the utility in Bristol, Tennessee.) also announced another powerline broadband project last week, this one in Israel.

Finally, the Bush administration, acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an Executive Branch agency within the Department of Commerce issued its' own statement on powerline broadband,

first saying:
"NTIA believes that Broadband over Power Line (BPL) holds great promise as a new source of innovation and competition in the broadband marketplace ...  Thus, NTIA urges the Commission [FCC] to move forward expeditiously with its BPL Inquiry."

then going on to say:
"Notwithstanding BPL's potential benefits, the commission must ensure that other communications services, especially federal government operations, are adequately protected from unacceptable interference" and noting "federal government agencies have over eighteen thousand (18,000) frequency assignments in the 1.7 - 80 MHz spectrum in which BPL systems may unintentionally radiate.

and concluding:
"NTIA is launching extensive modeling, analysis and measurement efforts for BPL and we encourage the Commission [FCC] to consider our findings as it moves forward in the BPL proceeding."

See the ARRL's main powerline broadband page for other links to both sides of the powerline broadband issue. See this Google search page for links to previous powerline broadband news items in the Community Broadband Networks archives.

(Slashdot link from Rodney Frey)


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