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Andre Kesteloot andre.kesteloot at
Sun Jun 20 20:17:32 CDT 2004

Why broadband over power lines is a bad idea

David Coursey 

Executive Editor, AnchorDesk
Friday, Feb. 27, 2004 	
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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.
Use your home's
power lines

If you want to make a broadband Net connection available in every corner 
of your home, our editors recommend a power-line access point like this 
one from Siemens.

Siemens SpeedStream Powerline 802.11b Wireless Access Point 


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 services. 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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