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BPL Powers On
It actually appears to be working. With pilots in a handful of states, a rising tide of interest in establishing technical and safety standards, and growing political support in Washington, broadband over power lines (BPL) is quietly yet quickly moving from the drawing board into the marketplace.
But it has not been without some hiccups and doubts. The concept of turning every power outlet into a high-speed Internet access point is receiving some pushback from health and safety organizations (especially the Federal Emergency Management Agency), as well as from other groups with a stake in current spectrum allocation. They remain concerned about the interference that could be caused by transmitting data over an infrastructure that already emits a tremendous amount energy. (You just have to drive under a power line with you're A.M. radio on to experience the kind of interruptions in signals they are worried about.)
But recent actions by the IEEE and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) are leading to standards and deployment procedures designed to address these issues.
This week, the IEEE launched the development of the P1675 "Standard for Broadband over Power Line Hardware." When finished, IEEE P1675 will give electric utilities a comprehensive standard for installing the required hardware on distribution lines--both underground and overhead--that provide the infrastructure for BPL systems. It also will include installation requirements for the protection of those who work on BPL equipment, as well as ensure that such systems do not place the public at risk. The standard is targeted for completion in mid-2006.
This move comes on the heels of an NTIA report issued earlier this year, which concludes that the promise of BPL can, in fact, be realized with the application of "rigorous technical solutions" that would protect critical federal systems from interference.
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