Broadband over power lines

Cinergy has released a statement detailing their plans to provide broadband access over their high voltage power lines.

Woah. My first response is "Can you do that?", but I suppose that's moot since they are... The next question would be, "How can you do that?", but Cinergy's BPL plan mentions "proprietary processes" so I suppose we can file that under 'trade secret' for now. Seems like a major kick in the jimmy to the cable companies, though, if it takes off.

(via Knowledge Problem)

UPDATE: I figured that the idea for the technology couldn't be a trade secret, so I googled a bit and found this basic description of whats going on:

The technology works like this: Data is carried either by fiber-optic or telephone lines to skip disruptive high-voltage lines, then is injected into the power grid downstream, onto medium-voltage wires.

Because signals can only make it so far before breaking apart, special electronic devices on the line catch packets of data, then reamplify and repackage them before shooting them out again.

Other technologies use more elaborate techniques that detour the signal around transformers.

Either way, the signal makes its way to neighborhoods and customers who could access either it wirelessly, through strategically placed utility poles, or by having it zipped directly into their homes via the regular electric current. Adaptors at individual power outlets ferry the data into computers through their usual ports.

It has not been able to be done in Europe so far, so if US companies can get it done we can put another feather in our collective tribal hat. (Or, score one for the market...)

However, score one for the statists, maybe:

The FCC's rules already prohibit unlicensed electronic devices, including BPL transmitters, from interfering with licensed devices, such as ham radios. If the FCC were to find interference and enforce its existing rules, most of the BPL industry could be shut down. "If the commission were to follow its rules, that would be the practical effect," said Dave Sumner, chief executive officer of ARRL "If the commission decides that BPL cannot operate in this country, that'd be fine with us."

(The ARRL are the American Radio Relay League)

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Pretty cool Brian. How'd

Pretty cool Brian. How'd they do that, I wonder?

There is a common technology

There is a common technology called powerline networking most often used for home networking. Phonix Broadband is a low cost supplier with a 14 megabits per second home product that uses 10/100Base-T Ethernet adapters and a proprietary bridge but others such as Linksys and Netgear have offerings too.

See this article on the homeplug standard for some insights into the technical issues. I assume that transmission over HV lines has similar problems of interference and transfer function degradations as homes and deals with them using proprietary ASICS too... industrial strength versions with clever algorithms.

I'm not sure why you

I'm not sure why you characterize amateur radio operators as "statists." Most of the ones I've met certainly aren't. Or are you characterizing the dislike of destructive interference with existing, legal radio use as statist? This also seems wrong.

Generally I would not

Generally I would not characterize the amateur radio operators as statist, however in this case they are using the state to suppress a technology based on disputed (to say the least) claims about interference; it is a solution imposed by state fiat, imposed instead of trying to make arrangements with the power companies.

I have to wonder, as the power companies have publicly, why they would go ahead with a public plan to provide this service if they had any indication that it would cause the interference; since they would all know full well that the FCC would simply order them to cease if that were shown to happen.

If they want to defend a property right, then go ahead and do so (in the court system or through arbitration). Leaning on the government to forcibly prevent the implementation of a new technology simply because it may be inconvenient to state-sponsored monopolists (do they even have a property right in their licenses?) is part and parcel and standard operating procedure of statists from the days of yore till today.

Um, as the quote in the

Um, as the quote in the article says, the FCC must _find_ interference. Not just imagine it. The test for interference is not some theoretical foolery. It's an actual test for actual interference.

Just as the local courts are the proper forum for handling trespassing on physical property, the FCC is the proper form for handling trespassing on spectrum rights. If the latter is "Leaning on the government", the former surely is as well.

Make up your mind whether you believe that spectrum rights rise to the level of property rights or not; the rest seems to follow trivially from that answer. If interference is found in FCC tests, BPL has to either buy some spectrum or stop operating. If interference is not found in FCC tests, BPL can operate. Moreover, while it may surprise you, this cannot possibly be a surprise to the Cinergy folks, because the possibility of interference from the technology they propose has been well known for years.