WASHINGTON (AP) - The same
power lines that bring electricity to televisions and toasters may become
the next pathway into homes for high-speed Internet access, federal
officials said Wednesday.
They said the technology offers an alternative to cable and telephone
lines as a way to get broadband service, with its ability to quickly
deliver large amounts of data and high-quality video signals.
"Every power plug in your home becomes a broadband connection,'' said
Edmond Thomas, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Office of
Engineering and Technology. He said companies developing the technology have overcome many hurdles in
the past year. "It's starting to look like a very viable technology,'' said Thomas, who
described the technology in a presentation to the agency's five
"We're very excited.''
But it is uncertain whether most consumers will get to use it anytime
soon, said Mark Uncapher, senior vice president with the Information
Technology Association of America, a Washington-based trade group.
"It is still very much an open question just how commercially feasible it
is,'' he said. "It's going to need a company or companies that are really going to
Internet access over electric lines would be similar in capability to
connections over cable modems and telephone digital subscriber lines, or
DSL, Thomas said. Such an alternative could lead to more competition and lower prices,
The FCC has been studying the technology for several months and will pay
more attention to it this year, Thomas said.
He said no regulations prohibit the technology, but the agency is
concerned that Internet transmissions carried over power lines could emit
signals inside and outside the home that could cause interference.
"We want to make darn sure this isn't going to cause problems to your
TV,'' he said.
Shark said the technology works by sending information over existing
electric power lines. Cables carrying high-speed Internet information would likely be linked to
electric lines after they have left power stations.
Internet connections could then flow directly into the power outlets in
homes and offices or to an outdoor pole that broadcasts a wireless
broadband signal to a neighbourhood.
The current technology can not send signals over high-voltage lines that
carry greater amounts of electricity to isolated areas, Shark said.
Shark said the technology has other potential benefits, including helping
utilities monitor the condition of power lines and providing a back up
communications system for communities worried about terrorism, natural
disasters or other emergencies. - AP (Associated