- A unit of Cinergy Corp. today will become the nation’s first electric utility to offer high-speed Internet service to customers via its power lines, turning every electrical outlet in homes or offices into a Web connection.
The technology, which will be offered first in Hyde Park and Mount Lookout, holds the promise of adding competition and cutting prices for broadband services while making such service available (particularly in remote and rural areas) without costly investments in cables.
The Federal Communications Commission has been pushing the technology to bolster competition – and thus spur more Americans, who are less likely than Japanese or South Korean consumers, to have broadband access. FCC Chairman Michael Powell has said the technology like the kind Cinergy will use “could simply blow the doors off the provision of broadband.” [Cincinnati Enquirer] Perhaps Powell isn’t as dumb as he has appeared.
- Cinergy Broadband teamed with Current Communications Group, a Germantown, Md., technology company to test the service – known as broadband over power lines or BPL – in about 100 homes in Hyde Park in the last year.
“Our pilot has been very successful, with more than 75 percent saying they would be willing to subscribe to the service” said William Grealis, Cinergy executive vice president and president of Cinergy Broadband.
….Cinergy thinks that BPL has a couple of advantages over competitors. It doesn’t require a cable or phone line, and can be operated from anyplace where there’s an electric wall outlet. Upload and download speeds are the same, unlike DSL and cable modem service – whose upload speeds are slower than download speeds.
….The joint venture also plans to begin offering voice over the Internet telephone service to customers next fall. Prices for that service haven’t been set.
Cinergy and privately held Current are forming another joint venture to market the technology to municipally owned power companies nationally. Grealis said that’s a potential market of 24 million homes.
….”I think there will be a stampede toward (broadband over power lines) in 2005,” said Alan Shark, president of the Power Line Communications Association, an industry trade group in Arlington, Va.
Growing popularity of high-speed Internet service for game playing and downloading music, coupled with refinements in the technology itself, are building momentum for commercial deployment, he said.
….The FCC recently announced it plans to begin developing rules for the technology and has signaled that its views BPL as a third “pipeline” to deliver high-speed Internet service, along with cable modems and digital telephone lines.
After evaluating various BPL technologies for several years, Grealis said Current’s system “is one that works, and we think it’s the only one that works.”
This is excellent news on several levels: competition from a third “pipeline” will have downward pressure on broadband prices in general, power line broadband makes service to rural areas economically viable, and you have the convenience of plugging in anywhere there is an electrical outlet, and upload speeds are equal to that of download. Broadband for everyone!