Vendor Offers Broadband by Power Lines

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More than a million residents of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana will have a new broadband option this month in the first large-scale rollout of broadband over power line (BPL) service, despite concerns that the new BPL technology interferes with other radio frequency devices, including ham radios.

Current Communications Group, a BPL vendor, announced Tuesday it is teaming with Cinergy Broadband, a subsidiary of Cinergy, to roll out BPL service in Cinergy's coverage area by March 15, says Brian Lustig, a Current Communications spokesperson. Current Communications has been conducting small-scale trials of BPL in the Cincinnati, Ohio, and Potomac, Maryland, areas for more than a year.

The large-scale rollout will be available to Cinergy's 1.5 million customers in southwestern Ohio, parts of central and southern Indiana and the Cincinnati suburbs in Kentucky.

Drawing Criticism

The rollout follows action by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in mid-February in which commissioners voted to move forward with a process to measure interference caused by BPL service.

The FCC's move drew criticism from groups such as the American Radio Relay League, which contends that BPL interferes with ham radio signals.

An ARRL official wasn't immediately available to comment on Current Communications' announcement.

Alternative Access

BPL vendors pitch the service as a third broadband choice, in addition to cable modem and DSL service. FCC commissioners have trumpeted BPL as a broadband option for customers in rural areas where cable or DSL service aren't available.

Current Communications' service will allow consumers to receive broadband through their electrical outlets. Users can plug in a HomePlug power line modem into an electric socket anywhere in a house or office without professional installation or additional wiring, according to the company.

Current Communications is also planning to offer a voice over Internet Protocol service, possibly through a partnership with another company, Lustig says.

Customers in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky will be able to buy BPL service for $29.95 to $39.95 a month, depending on the connection speed. A second Current Communications joint venture with Cinergy will deploy BPL to smaller municipal and cooperatively owned power companies covering 24 million customers across the U.S. The companies have not announced a date for that second rollout.

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