Anti-BPL article on ZDnet Anchordesk yesterday

Robert Stratton bob at stratton.NET
Fri Feb 27 23:26:11 CST 2004

In yesterday's ZDnet "Anchordesk", David Coursey published the following 
article.  In it, he acknowledges being a ham, and proceeds to encourage 
all of his readers to follow the issue.

Ironically enough, there was an ad on the right margin of the web page 
for a Siemens powerline network adapter. Go figure.

Why broadband over power lines is a bad idea
By David Coursey: Executive Editor, AnchorDesk
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Since last we visited the issue of transmitting the Internet over power 
lines (the big electric company kind, not the wires in your walls), the 
Federal Communications Commission, lapdog to the monied interests, has 
issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the second step in making 
broadband over power lines (BPL) a reality.
In a rare moment of governmental clarity, an NPRM is precisely what it 
seems to be: Advance notice of how the FCC is going to give zillionaires 
what they want at the expense of us ordinary folks. The NPRM follows a 
Notice of Inquiry that was issued last April and generated more than 
5,000 comments, many from angry ham radio operators.

HERE'S THE DEAL: BPL is a technology that uses radio waves, transmitted 
over power lines, to provide broadband Internet or other data 
connectivity. The problem with BPL is simple physics: Radio waves like 
to fly off into space. When they do, interference results. In order to 
get broadband speeds, BPL uses a large number of frequencies, some of 
which are capable of traveling literally around the world even on the 
small transmitter power that BPL systems use.

BPL would operate as an unlicensed radio service under Part 15 of the 
FCC's rules. This is the same section that allows most of the unlicensed 
devices used in home and business. All of these devices are supposed to 
operate in such a way that they don't interfere with licensed radio 

Among the leaders in the fight against BPL is the amateur radio 
community. Ham radio operators, including myself, see BPL as a 
potentially huge source of communications-disrupting interference. The 
hams have found an ally in the National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration (NTIA), the Commerce Department agency 
charged with coordinating the federal government's own radio systems.

The NTIA has warned the FCC that, unless it's carefully regulated, BPL 
could cause significant interference to government users of shortwave 
radio frequencies. The NTIA is conducting its own BPL study, though it 
has not yet been released. Another study, by ARRL, the national 
organization for amateur radio, is also due to be released in the next 
few weeks to months.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE about all this? Because BPL could have a negative 
impact on the entire world of radio communication. Remember what I said 
earlier about the radio waves flying off into space? Even the low-power 
signals BPL would employ can, under the right conditions, travel around 
the globe. That means BPL systems in the United States could cause 
interference in places far removed from whatever benefit BPL is supposed 
to provide.

Interference is pollution and, once it starts, can prove impossible to 
stop. If not properly managed, BPL has the potential to ruin large 
portions of the shortwave radio spectrum. Like old-growth forests, radio 
spectrum is precious and for much the same reason: They just aren't 
making any more of it. What we have needs to be wisely managed for the 
greatest public benefit.

BPL needs to be watched carefully to make sure a technology we don't 
really need--isn't there enough broadband out there already?--doesn't 
cause problems we'll never be able to resolve.

If you're interested in this issue, please read some of the documents 
available and make your feelings known to the FCC.

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