Saturday, February 21, 2009

BPL an exercise in obsolescence

Broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) is a broadband last mile delivery technology that was declared all but dead in 2008. But BPL refuses to die despite a barely detectable pulse of just 256 Kbs at the low end and 1 Mbs when it's ticking along. Ten years ago that would have worked great for web browsing and email. But now it's a turkey that won't pack the bandwidth needed for fast growing applications like streaming video.

I.B.M announced in November it would pony up $9.6 million in a venture with a small company to deploy BPL via electric power cooperatives formed decades ago in areas of the U.S. skipped by private power companies.

Rather than engage in misguided and already outmoded technological ventures such as BPL, power companies and cooperatives should instead string fiber optic cable cable on their poles and towers and lease the fiber to coops, telcos and Internet Service Providers. Pacific Gas and Electric considered this idea more than a decade ago. It should dust it off and implement it and urge its industry peers to do likewise and avoid investing in BPL technology -- as PG&E wisely avoided -- that's already obsolete even before it's deployed.

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