FCC Moves to Bolster Powerline Broadband


The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules Thursday with the goal of transforming every electrical outlet in the country into a high-speed-data port and providing wide-scale competition to the market’s dominant players, phone companies and cable operators.

The commission adopted numerous rules establishing procedures that will allow broadband-power-line providers to offer service without causing harmful interference to licensed users, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the aviation industry and amateur radio operators.

BPL providers are just getting started as a commercial product, but FCC chairman Michael Powell said the technology’s potential was enormous for spreading broadband access everywhere at affordable prices.

“We talk so often about competition. Well, here it is. All economists will tell you that magic happens when you find a third way,” he added.

Powell has seen BPL demonstrations where the price was less than $30 per month.

“In response, the local cable company cut their rate 30%. That’s what competition does, and that’s why we are pushing so aggressively to promote this technology,” he said.

FCC member Michael Copps said BPL was indeed promising, but he thought the agency failed to address several important issues, including the possibility that monopoly utilities could undermine a competitive broadband market.

“Is it right to allow electricity ratepayers to pay higher bills every month to subsidize an electric company's foray into broadband?” Copps asked.