High-speed Internet access over electricity lines promising
The Star - Thursday, 16 January 2003
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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 commissioners.

"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 champion it.''

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, Uncapher said.

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 Press)