Thursday, July 15, 2004

Data Power
It was several years ago that I first ran across the idea of using power lines to transmit data, including high speed internet access. After a long period of dormancy, it looks like this idea is starting to catch on, in different ways.

This article in MIT's Technology Review proposes utilities as potential competitors to DSL and cable providers. The NY Times recently looked at the potential for data over power lines to solve the problem of the "last mile", or even the last few feet, particularly when cleverly matched to wireless networks.

The advantages of this approach seem obvious, at least in terms of the ubiquity of the infrastructure. If "BPL" turns out to be as reliable as other broadband connections, it will open up large market segments that are currently unserved by DSL or cable, as well as providing some healthy competition to current operators who may presently feel free to collect monopoly rents from their subscribers. (My own cable provider increased its ongoing rates to $45/mo. vs. their $29.95 intial come-on.)

Less obviously, could offering this additional service provide utilities with the revenue and incentives to upgrade their own infrastructure, a need highlighted by last year's Northeast blackout?

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