Powering Up Broadband
FCC looking at a novel avenue for broadband connectivity: The electrical outlet.As conventional notions for promoting high-speed Internet accesstax cuts and regulatory breaks for providers or subsidies for start-ups or userswallow in legislative logjams or litigation, the Federal Communications Commission Wednesday began looking at a novel avenue for broadband connectivity: The electrical outlet. Broadband over Power Line, as the technology is known in regulatory circles, has the potential to create a new competitor to digital subscriber line service and cable modem service. Additionally, it could be particularly helpful in delivering Internet access to rural areas, which policy-makers are especially mindful of today. Tests are underway in about a dozen states, including Maryland, where FCC commissioners recently viewed the technology first-hand at a demonstration set up by Current Technologies Inc. and the Potomac Electric Power Co. In the inquiry opened Wednesday, the commission will evaluate the state of the technology and decide whether existing regulations need to be altered to prevent interference.
Ever-speedier chip sets and new radio frequency modulation techniques hold out the promise that small-scale, experimental communications-over-power lines could be expanded to widespread usage. The FCC has rules in place governing unlicensed systems of this ilk, but new designs suggest that multiple carriers, using a wide range of spectrum, could deliver high-speed data over power lines.