Fw: EarthLink Invests In Powerline Broadband

Paul Rinaldo prinaldo at mindspring.com
Sat Mar 13 11:38:55 CST 2004




EarthLink Invests In Powerline Broadband
Jim Wagner

This article can be found online at the following location:

Earthlink (Quote, Chart), one of the largest broadband Internet service
providers in the U.S., is investing $500,000 in a broadband Internet
technology only recently approved by the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC), it was announced Friday.

Officials at Ambient Corp., a Newton, Mass., communications company
specializing in broadband over power line (BPL) broadband Internet,
announced the ownership investment in its company, as well as the
addition of Earthlink to its advisory board, the first ISP to join
their ranks.

The announcement is another victory for Ambient, which provides Internet
connectivity over a medium that's faced a lot of criticism the past year
over interference concerns. BPL uses radio frequency (define) power to
deliver digital information over a utility line, using repeaters at
power boxes to strengthen the signal from the carrier to the home.

Because of the ubiquitous nature of power lines, the FCC has warmly
embraced the technology as an alternative to existing broadband Internet
technologies, and bridging the digital divide throughout the country,
mainly in rural locations. Digital subscriber line (define) is limited
to areas surrounding telephone companies; cable isn't carried outside
urban areas (for the most part), and satellite Internet connectivity is
bogged down with lag issues.

According to Ambient officials, Earthlink and Con Edison have been
working side-by-side with them the past two years on a BPL pilot. And
even though they provide cable, DSL and satellite Internet connectivity,
officials said its part of the company's strategy to look at
next-generation technologies as well.

"We look at it as our role to support companies and encourage
development of broadband," Dave Blumenthal, Earthlink spokesperson, told
internetnews.com. "We plan to participate in trials of a broad array of
alternative broadband technologies."

On Wednesday, Earthlink launched a BPL pilot program with Progress
Energy in North Carolina. The test bed involves 500 homes and costs
$19.95 for the first three months and $39.95 afterwards.

For a company the size of Earthlink, a half-million bet on a BPL carrier
is a slight risk for the company if the technology doesn't pan out; on
the other hand, it is positioned to reap bigger rewards if BPL is
successful. The investment contract includes the option to buy more
shares of the company down the road.

It's uncertain whether BPL will pay off in the long run, despite
Earthlink's increased interest and the well-wishes of the FCC. Amateur
radio enthusiasts claim the interference issues caused by BPL more than
offset the advantages to the technology.

Under Part 15 of the FCC's rules governing wireless communications,
unlicensed equipment has to abide by emission rules before it's used in
the U.S. Equipment used in fixed wireless Internet connections also fall
under the Part 15 rule.

Last April, the FCC released a notice of inquiry (NOI) regarding BPL,
taking arguments both for and against the technology from 5,100
individuals and organizations. The agency then released a notice of
proposed rulemaking (NPRM) Feb. 12, finding that although BPL equipment
couldn't sufficiently address Part 15 emission guidelines, it would
approve the use of the equipment in rollouts.

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