Your next broadband provider could be your power company.

The article FCC checks out Net over power lines over at CNET News.com reports that the FCC is a step closer to allowing broadband to be delivered to your home via your power lines.

Moves to plug homes and offices into the Internet via existing power outlets have been given a nudge forward by the Federal Communications Commission.

The agency said late Wednesday that it plans to file a notice of inquiry in the Federal Register into the viability of using power lines to provide broadband and Internet services. While it is unclear whether broadband over power line (BPL) will be less expensive to set up than cable or digital subscriber lines (DSL), the inquiry offers the promise of a third way to deliver broadband into the home.

The inquiry will be into the use of two types of power-line technology. The first is Access BPL, under which 1,000-volt to 40,000-volt power lines would bring broadband service into households and businesses. The other is for in-house BPL, which uses existing electrical wiring in a home or building to create a network of computers, printers and other devices.

Broadband has been slow to arrive in more rural communities and those few places it has made it to don’t have enough of a subscriber base to support more than one provider given the costs associated with maintaining such a system. In Otisville, Michigan where my parents live, for example, the only broadband providers available are A) Charter Pipeline and they charge as much for their low-speed broadband as Wide Open West charges me for my high-speed connection and B) DirectPC through digital satellite and that would require an additional $600 or so in equipment to use. DSL isn’t available due to distances from their central office.

The two most likely cost-effective alternatives to make in-roads into the rural markets would be either Wi-Fi (possibly through use of unlicensed segments of the TV spectrum) and Broadband over Power Line (BPL). You can already buy home network kits that work through your home’s power lines as an alternative to running ethernet cable through the walls and the technology has gotten much better over the years since it was first introduced. So who knows? Perhaps in another few years you’ll have a third option for high-speed Internet.

2 thoughts on “Your next broadband provider could be your power company.

  1. Interesting. I work for a power company and for years we have pondered cutting some of our costs by running our own T1’s on our transmission towers and maybe leasing space out to others. The only problem is you cant run copper on those towers due to the high voltage so everything would have to be fiber. Not a big deal just a lot of upfront costs. But then there is the idea of us having to maintain our own lines. So we still lease from the telco’s. In the long run its cheaper, their infrastructure is already in place and is maintained.  So I’m curious on seeing how they can make the data travel _though_ a 768KV line to your house. =]  We have problems in some of the plants running ethernet over the top of a power cable never mind trying to run the data though it!

  2. I think this definitely falls under the category of “I’ll believe it when we see it.” With so many promises made and broken on broadband, particular to so-called last-mile communities, the failure to deliver has been nearly complete.

    This is my organization, the Rural Broadband Initiative, is taking steps to become a not-for-profit provider of fixed-wireless broadband Internet access in our region of western Maine, because the for-profit companies simply aren’t getting the job done.

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