FCC Opens Power-Line Broadband Inquiry


The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday launched an inquiry into
potential spectrum interference caused by high-speed-data services flowing from
medium-voltage power lines into homes and offices.

The United States has 18 million miles of power lines, which some FCC
regulators consider a viable alternative to cable modems and
digital-subscriber-line service, the leading providers of high-speed Internet
access today.

The FCC adopted a notice of inquiry in a 5-0 vote. Although FCC rules permit
broadband service over power lines without a license, the agency wanted to give
the public time to comment on possible broadband-power-line interference with
licensed services and what to do about it, if anything.

Harmful interference may occur when power lines discharge data from pole
transformers to wireless receivers in the home, FCC officials said.

FCC officials are optimistic because the vast majority of U.S. homes have
electricity and each home is likely to have multiple power outlets that would
serve as high-speed-data connection points.

Republican FCC chairman Michael Powell called broadband over power lines a
"monumental breakthrough" that should be felt in the market soon.

"It is marching at a very aggressive pace and will be commercially available
to consumers this year. This is not something in the lab," Powell said.

Craig E. Schaar, spokesman for the Power Line Communications Association,
said PPL Corp. is testing broadband over power lines in Allentown, Pa., and
Ameren Corp. is doing the same in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

"PPL will probably be first utility to roll out broadband early this summer,"
Schaar said.