BPL Lives On, Again

from the 9-lives dept

Broadband over powerline has gotten lots and lots of attention and investment over the past decade or so, but remains little more than a black hole of hype. Every once in a while, a story comes along to remind us that despite its near-total lack of traction, BPL abides. Now it could apparently be in line to get some money from the economic stimulus bill. We've been skeptical of any broadband stimulus, in large part because it looked more like handouts to incumbents than anything meaningful. But putting more money towards BPL, given its market failure and lack of progress, would be shambolic.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 3:57pm

    Shambolic??

    sham·bol·ic (shām-bŏl'ĭk)

    adj. Chiefly British Slang
    Disorderly or chaotic: "[The country's] transportation system is in a shambolic state" (London Sunday Times).


    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/shambolic

     

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  2.  
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    Karl, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 4:29pm

    Shambolic indeed.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 4:49pm

    Does BPL make sense for rural broadband?

    As stupid as an idea BPL is for urban areas it might be easier to implement in sticks.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 4:57pm

    Now my vocabulartis expanderfies when I visirate Techdirt.

     

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  5.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 20th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Re:

    It's a perfectly cromulent word.

     

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  6.  
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    some old guy, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Does BPL make sense for rural broadband?

    As stupid as an idea BPL is for urban areas it might be easier to implement in sticks.

    No.

    "The Sticks" has the worst power infrastructure around. You need excessively clean power signals to deliver bandwidth over those lines. Which means the only place it actually works is in brand spankin new build-outs in dense population zones. ie: the only place it works is where its least needed.

    It has been a nightmare and a moneypit to everyone else.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 7:20pm

    Interested Parties

    Not suprising based on the following:

    Google in $100 Million BPL Investment - July 7, 2005

    "Google, Goldman Sachs and the Hearst Corporation have ponied up a combined $100 million to invest in Current Communications Group, hoping to rapidly expand the reach of broadband throughout the country."

    The rest of the article:http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3518341

     

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  8.  
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    TinFoilHatNeedsAlignment, Feb 20th, 2009 @ 8:49pm

    BPL is kind of scary

    Will my fridge rat me out when I have a few too many brewskies?

    Will the DVD player report all the pron I watch?

     

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  9.  
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    zcat, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 1:54am

    BPL is based on voodoo physics

    I seem to recall the original premise was that high voltage power lines have a magnetic field around them which can act as a 'waveguide', allowing you to send microwave signals and thus huge amounts of bandwidth along the lines. Anyone with half a clue about electrical engineering or basic radio theory will immediately recognise that this is utter bullshit. Unfortunately the investors and politicians suckered into believing the hype don't have half a clue about electrical engineering or radio theory and aren't even smart enough to seek the opinion of a qualified and impartial third party.

     

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  10.  
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    CrushU, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Re: BPL is based on voodoo physics

    Oddly, that explanation reminds me of Tesla's way of transferring power... He didn't use wires. It was really quite interesting to see, and it doesn't work at all with our current power grid. IIRC, it needed DC power to work instead of AC.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Re: Re: BPL is based on voodoo physics

    I thought it was Edison who liked DC, Tesla was the guy who pushed for AC.

     

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  12.  
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    chris (profile), Feb 21st, 2009 @ 9:02am

    the third pipe dream

    bashing BPL for being a total failure is a lot of fun, but it doesn't change the fact that we need a third viable option for broadband besides cable and DSL.

    the more competition in that space the better off we will all be, even if we choose to stay with cable or DSL.

    thisis why muni-fiber, muni-wifi, and all those other broadband projects need to get off the ground despite whining and complaining from incumbents.

    i would like to see the mobile providers step up and offer their broadband services with speeds and caps that would allow them to compete with residential providers.

    of course, it will never happen, since there are really only two mobile carriers (verizon and at&t) who both have dsl and fiber businesses to protect, even though it means they could expand into regions that they do not currently have monopolies on.

     

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  13.  
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    Charming Charlie, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 10:53am

    From a craft standpoint, this is among the best Techdirt posts I've ever read. Kudos for a Big Lebowski reference and a word no one knew they needed.

     

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  14.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Broadband over powerline

    Agreed, but on the plus side, it signals Obama's willingness to bargain with Republicans. The GOP has (essentially) admitted that they MUST have campaign donations from big business, and if Obama is really going to "reach across the aisle" he has to live with that as long as the party of the "Welfare for the Wealthy" (aka GOP) is as powerful as it is. Overall, I admire Obama for at least trying.

     

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  15.  
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    nasch, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 1:37pm

    Re: BPL is based on voodoo physics

    Anyone with half a clue about electrical engineering or basic radio theory will immediately recognise that this is utter bullshit.

    The IEEE doesn't agree with you, and I'm pretty sure they have people with a great deal more than half a clue about electrical engineering and basic radio theory.

    * IEEE 643-2004 "Guide for Power-Line Carrier Applications" is a standard for communication over the transmission line network (above 69kV).
    * IEEE P1675 "Standard for Broadband over Power Line Hardware" is a working group working on hardware installation and safety issues.
    * IEEE P1775 "Powerline Communication Equipment - Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Requirements - Testing and Measurement Methods" is a working group focused on PLC equipment, electromagnetic compatibility requirements, and testing and measurement methods.
    * IEEE P1901 "IEEE P1901 Draft Standard for Broadband over Power Line Networks: Medium Access Control and Physical Layer Specifications" is a working group for delivering broadband over power lines. The aim is to define medium access control and physical layer specifications for all classes of BPL devices - from long distance connections to those within subscriber premises. Many companies and standard bodies are participating in the developing IEEE P1901 standard including HomePlug Powerline Alliance, UPA, CEPCA and OPERA; this means a good chance for a unified power line communication standard in the future. Launch is expected in 2008.
    * IEEE BPL Study Group — "Standardization of Broadband Over Power Line Technologies" drove the creation of the BPL related P1901 working groups. It still meets time-to-time looking to create new working groups if needed.

     

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  16.  
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    nasch, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 1:39pm

    Re: the third pipe dream

    We need more competition in the broadband market, but it doesn't have to be a different technology does it? A few different DSL providers and a few different cable companies would do nicely. It would be better to figure out how to get that to happen than to fund an inferior technology just to get more competition.

     

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  17.  
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    zcat, Feb 21st, 2009 @ 2:46pm

    Not saying that you can't send broadband over powerlines in the same way you can send broadband over telephone lines (except that powerlines have a lot more noise, bloody great inductors all over the place which block the signal, and aren't a twisted pair so no shielding effect), but (and I wish I could find the original article) early on in the same some self-described 'genius' was making claims that it would work like a microwave link down a waveguide and gigabit speeds would be possible. It's not that simple and throwing more money at the problem isn't going to change the physics.

     

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  18.  
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    New Buzniz Op, Feb 22nd, 2009 @ 4:51pm

    BSL

    Broadband over Sewer Lines

     

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  19.  
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    mobiGeek, Feb 22nd, 2009 @ 6:45pm

    Re: BPL is kind of scary

    No scarier than what could be done *today* without BPL.

    Do you run a cell-network jamming system in your home? Have one-way glass on all your windows? Sound proof entirely from the outside world?

     

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  20.  
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    zcat, Feb 22nd, 2009 @ 7:35pm

    Re: BSL

    If you mean by drawing fibre through them instead of digging a trench, it's been done already. And old gas lines I believe.

     

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  21.  
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    TinFoilHatNeedsAdjustment, Feb 22nd, 2009 @ 9:20pm

    Re: Re: BPL is kind of scary

    Yes ... well considering the poor cell phone reception I imagine they would need to be very close. Anyways, it was meant to be a joke.

    btw - passive suppression would probably be better than active jamming.

     

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  22.  
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    FatSteve, Feb 23rd, 2009 @ 4:31am

    What happens in the substation & transformer?

    So we have BPL coming in on the 11kV feed to a distribution substation. Does it pass through all the oil/vacumn/SF6 circuit breakers the same as the 11 kV, and every thing we do to maintain supply to the customer maintains the BPL as well?

    How does this work with the 11kv/415 v transformer? Is a seperate transformer required for the BPL signals operating at a very different frequency to the 50Hz mains? What failure modes could this transformer have, and how are they protected against?

    I know Americans are much more willing to work live, but if I have to work on HV gear it will be isolated and earthed and I will not care what that does to your BPL if there is the remotest effect on my safety.

     

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  23.  
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    Jim, Feb 23rd, 2009 @ 7:10am

    Midwest Energy is rolling out BPL in SW. MI

    Starting in Q1 2009, they are making Broadband over powerlines available to rural customers. My mom and some friends of mine are in the service area, about a mile from the local village, 12 miles or so from a stoplight...

    http://www.teammidwest.com/bpl.aspx

     

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