Pa. Power Co. Extends Data Trial


A Pennsylvania electric utility is expanding a market trial of high-speed Internet service delivered over power lines.

A spokesman for PPL TelCom, a unit of PPL Corp. of Allentown, Pa., would not state the number of homes buying Internet access from the company, saying only that it is a small number.

The service is offered in four communities -- Whitehall Township and Emmanaus in the Lehigh Valley, a third township in Northampton County and Upper Macungie Township.

The Lehigh Valley customers were part of a beta-test that began about one year ago.

The company charges $40 for 1.5 megabits per second downstream -- faster than digital-subscriber-line service but slower than a cable modem, said Jim Santanasto, a spokesman for the utility.

Initially, groups including the National Academy of Sciences and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration raised questions about radio interference from an electric plant delivering data.

But Santanasto said there have only been three radio-related complaints during the trial so far, and the problems were resolved to the complaining party’s satisfaction.

No date has been set for a more wide-scale test or product rollout.

About one-dozen electric companies throughout the country are testing the viability of high-speed-data delivery. PPL has 1.3 million electric customers in Pennsylvania.