andre kesteloot andre.kesteloot at verizon.net
Thu May 8 16:52:14 CDT 2008


The Dallas Morning News has reported that "an ambitious plan for using
power lines to deliver fast Internet service to 2 million Dallas-area
homes collapsed Thursday." Current Group, LLC has announced plans to
sell its Dallas BPL network to Oncor, a regulated electric distribution
and transmission business, for $90 million. Oncor reportedly has no
plans to offer Internet service but will use the network to detect
distribution network issues
s.ART.State.Edition1.460d413.html>. While Current originally touted the
network as a way to offer Internet service to consumers and had entered
into a marketing arrangement with DirecTV, the Houston Chronicle quotes
Oncor spokesman Chris Schein as confirming that Oncor will use the
network only for monitoring the power grid: "Our business is delivering
electricity, not being an Internet provider or a television provider."

ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, observed that "This
announcement underscores yet again that the Bush Administration made a
fundamental error in judgment when it erroneously identified BPL as a
potential 'third wire' delivering broadband to consumers. As the Court
of Appeals for the DC Circuit determined last week
<http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2008/04/25/10064/?nc=1>, the FCC then
compounded the error by 'cherry-picking' from its staff studies and
ignoring other studies that proved the FCC was underestimating the
interference potential of BPL systems. One can only hope that this
latest marketplace failure of BPL will send a clear message that the
answer to expanding consumer broadband access lies with other, more
promising technologies that do not have such a potential to pollute the
radio spectrum."

ARRL Laboratory Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI, was quick to point out that BPL
was not going away in Dallas. According to Oncor Vice President Jim
Greer, Oncor will use the BPL network to spot grid problems to detect
large power outages before they affect customers. Oncor will not offer
Internet service through the system as Current had originally planned
when they built it.

The ARRL has no issues with BPL as long as it does not cause harmful
interference to the amateur bands. Current's Dallas system is a good
example of that, Hare said, as it is "notched" so as not to interfere
with the Amateur Radio Service: "The Current system in Dallas is
probably not causing interference to ham radio. Their equipment doesn't
use the ham bands. It is also quiet except when in use. For meter
reading and other utility applications, nearby modems may make the
occasional short burst of noise, but not the cacophony of sound we hear
with some other systems. You would probably be able to tell that BPL is
there if you tune outside the ham bands. From an EMC perspective, what
is needed now to complete this progress are regulations and standards
that match BPL's most successful models."

DirecTV customers who get Internet service through Current's network
will probably lose service when the deal goes through. "Oncor is not in
the telecommunications business, and it has no plans to get into the
telecommunications business," said Schein.

Dallas and Houston are the only metropolitan areas in Texas with BPL. In
the past, the City of Austin looked at incorporating a BPL system in
their community, but decided not to do so. In a report
<http://p1k.arrl.org/~ehare/bpl/COAAE_BPL_Final_Report.pdf> on how the
BPL trial it undertook worked for them, the City of Austin summarized
its reasons for that decision.

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