11 Comments

Summary:

Long time readers are aware of my skepticism about broadband over powerline technologies. I am not sure sending broadband over electric cables is a workable idea, despite what our FCC commissioners say. So perhaps it is encouraging to see that energy industry insiders are preaching caution, […]

Long time readers are aware of my skepticism about broadband over powerline technologies. I am not sure sending broadband over electric cables is a workable idea, despite what our FCC commissioners say. So perhaps it is encouraging to see that energy industry insiders are preaching caution, and not just because of questions about the technology. “Utilities have never really operated in competitive markets before and the broadband market is a very competitive market,” Rick Nicholson, vice president of research at Energy Insights, an IDC company, tells Reuters.

He points to the past disasters, and is worried that we might see an encore. In a no-holds-barred price war between DSL and Cable broadband (and soon Wireless), BPL will be squeezed even before it gets off the group, that is if it gets off the ground. Vamsi Sistla, Director of Broadband Research at ABI Research tells Reuters that, “If you look at a utility they don’t really need the additional revenue from BPL … It’s not like Con Edison will go out of business if they don’t offer broadband …. If Verizon doesn’t offer DSL they will go out of business.” Still, it can play a niche role in some parts of the country where even 200 kbps is preferable to dial-up.

  1. I beg to differ. My father lives just outside of a community of 100,000 people. To far away from a CO for DSL. Does not want to spend $50 per month for cable broadband. BPL would be a perfect fit for him and a lot of other people that live in rural areas.
    He is not alone. Adding VOIP to BPL would give him added incentive. Right now the only choice for a lot of rural people in my state are satellite service. A inexpensive BPL plan would be well received.

    Share
  2. (trying again, first ‘post’ attempt seems to have died…)

    When is the “no-holds-barred price war” scheduled to start? Verizon DSL isn’t much cheaper if at all vs. cable as they charge me $20+ (after taxes, fees, nonsense) just for a dial tone (I use a mobile) to have DSL.

    And the cable companies seem to just keep bundling more crap — they seem much more enamored of the “higher prices, but look, more stuff!” approach than just cutting any prices. So far bband access prices don’t seemed to have dropped like dial-up did. Is that the result of a duopoly or am I just way off here?

    Share
  3. Michael Maggard Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    I just returned from 5 days at a friend’s home in Vermont. Though he works at Dartmouth, one of the most ‘wired’ universities in the world, to his home he has to settle for 33.6Kbps dial-up.

    Cable will likely never make it to his area. DSL is a potential but without any plans or commitment; his phone co. don’t even offer to take his name down for notification. Wireless is a possibility but Vermont is the “Green Mountain State” for a reason – line of sight isn’t terribly useful when your sight is typically of yet more trees on the other side of the valley, in the most rural state in the union. Satellite does work but is tremendously expensive and their “customer service” is famously absent.

    Heck, within hearing distance of I-89 only one corner of his property gets enough cellphone signal for a poor-quality voice connection on a single carrier’s network in good weather, data over it isn’t a possibility.

    Power-lines though, most houses have ‘em, thanks to the decades long rural electrification projects. While there might indeed be a good deal of ‘noise’ put out by running signals over those lines the same barriers that prevent good radio transmission *in* should shield folks in adjacent, better served, valleys from any RF leakage *out*.

    In these sorts of locations the utilities have a captive market of the sort they’re comfortable with, the gov’t subsidies they appreciate, and a willingness to cut deals for the community good that less-then-optimal operational characteristics might require. For folks out in those ‘hinterlands’ BPL might become hugely viable, and while they’re not a large market individually in aggregate they’re probably worth a great deal.

    Share
  4. Jesse Kopelman Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    People just don’t get the technical issues involved here. This is not a case of a wire just being a wire, but even if it were why would BPL be worth deploying where DSL is not? There is a phone wire passing all these houses that people consider targets for BPL too. Popping in some remote DSLAMs to get within range of where the people live is no more expensive than adding all the equipment you need for BPL. If the phone comapnies don’t find it worthwhile to offer DSL service to these customers, why would the electric company want to do so? It certainly wouldn’t be to come in with any bargain rate plans!

    Share
  5. w – i – r – e – l – e – s – s

    Share
  6. Right, BPL isn’t magic, nor are DSL varients. However competition IS a good thing and if the phone company can’t serve the market, or isn’t interested in the market, or won’t be ’til it has to work for it, then why not encourage the power company to research going for it?

    As to wireless, honey, that might work in the flatlands but in mountains, where folks typically don’t conveniently live on the peaks and ridges, it ain’t so great. Even with all of the fabulous promised 802.whatever versions it’ll still require a lotta transmitters & infrastructure, same as DSL & BPL require their own black boxes.

    It’s a horserace, and frankly most folks out in the mountains don’t really care who wins as long as there IS a race and something, someday, gets to the finish line and offers a decent connection and a bearable rate.

    Share
  7. I want to see BPL rolled out cautiously at first, as I’m afraid it may cause radio interference. But if it can be conclusively proven NOT to do so, then I’m all for it. I would love another “triple play” competitor. (Or, really, quadruple in this case: Power, Telephone, Television, Internet all on one wire.) Just by being a presence in the market, they can force other providers of the above services to offer better deals, better quality, and more choices.

    I would hope that power companies would apply their same quality-of-service and continuity-of-service standards they have for electricity to the new services.

    Share
  8. The BPL debate always makes me smile… I remember working in a UK cable operator in 2003 and we were in talks with an electricity company to potentially resell their BPL that was “successfully in trial in Scotlandâ€?. The product is still in trial and this article explains why…

    http://www.cochrane.org.uk/opinion/articles/silicon/2003/28-05-2003.php

    The economics of rolling BPL out stink, particularly when the power guys realise the size of the advertising budgets that DSL operators have. Running an ISP ain’t rocket science but it is different from delivering electricity…

    Share
  9. The BPL debate always makes me smile… I remember working in a UK cable operator in 2003 and we were in talks with an electricity company to potentially resell their BPL that was “successfully in trial in Scotlandâ€?. The product is still in trial and this article explains why…

    http://www.cochrane.org.uk/opinion/articles/silicon/2003/28-05-2003.php

    The economics of rolling BPL out stink, particularly when the power guys realise the size of the advertising budgets that DSL operators have. Running an ISP ain’t rocket science but it is different from delivering electricity…

    Share
  10. The BPL debate always makes me smile… I remember working in a UK cable operator in 2003 and we were in talks with an electricity company to potentially resell their BPL that was “successfully in trial in Scotlandâ€?. The product is still in trial and this article explains why…

    http://www.cochrane.org.uk/opinion/articles/silicon/2003/28-05-2003.php

    The economics of rolling BPL out stink, particularly when the power guys realise the size of the advertising budgets that DSL operators have. Running an ISP ain’t rocket science but it is different from delivering electricity…

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post