Broadband Riding The Power Lines In Texas

    August 16, 2005

Electricity takes the world into the future. The statement sounds a little dated but with the recent FCC ruling that utility companies could run high-speed Internet access through existing electrical outlets. Broadband over Power Lines or BPL may just be the wave of the future.

On NPR this morning, a great story of a small town in Texas known as Flatonia. Flatonia has a population of about 1400 and gets a lot of train traffic, enough to where they’ve built viewing platforms for people to watch those trains. The problem they’ve run into comes to their broadband issues. No one would provide them with broadband services they wanted.

So the town took it upon themselves to go and get it, through their power lines. The town took about $200,000 to turn their power lines into data lines. The electric utility in Flatonia is city owned. This will give the town broadband and an advanced detection network for both electricity and water meters. They will also have the ability to pinpoint electricity outages instead of having to just go out and look for them.

The customers will also get a lot of bang for the buck. They connect to the Internet through their power lines at 4 megabits per second, about the same speed as cable or high end DSL service and they said BPL equipment in development right now will go as fast as 90 mbps. That’s fast.

Right now, the system A system is in place in Cincinnati, Ohio and a contact with Current, the company teaming with Cincinnati power company Cinergy have had this service in place since April of this year and Rural Electric Cooperative Corps around the country are looking quite intently at the technology. Many are watching for economic feasibility and possible profits.

According to Broadband Horizons, the company in Texas providing the equipment to Flatonia, $25 to $30 a month is the running price for this service and these companies won’t need to lay out any new infrastructure. There aren’t many places in this country without electricity.

The groups that are legitimately nervous about this are the phone companies. While wireless broadband will certainly be available in mass quantities soon, power lines run in just about every nook and cranny in this country. You don’t have to worry about weather blocking the signal and the lines are heavily insulated and while they would be subject to the occasional downed tree, customer will know there’s a reason they’re broadband is gone because chances are the power is gone too. At the low prices they’re proposing, traditional telecom may be in for some real problems.

At this stage in the game, the technology is still relatively new but it’s moving along nicely and with big cities like Cincinnati picking up the service, it’s only a matter of time before the service is available for big and small cities alike.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.