Friday, April 28, 2006

Why did this take so long?

Calif. agency OKs broadband via power lines test�|�
"CPUC commissioner Rachelle Chong, who drafted the plan, said broadband over power lines, or BPL, could become a new competitor to Internet services delivered via telephone, cable and satellites and help reduce prices for consumers."

Competition generally being a benefit for consumers, this is good news, but I really wonder why it has taken so long. Power lines have been used to deliver radio programming (the FM station when I was at UVa worked that way); and back during the energy crisis of the 1970s, a lot of research was done on sending signals through the wires to read utility meters and even to control appliances. There was a substantial potential for energy savings and improved system reliability if utilities could selectively knock out certain loads like air conditioners and water heaters to pare peak demand rather than using brownouts or rolling blackouts.

At the time one major difficulty was the expense of bridging each transformer since signals cannot be propagated through them. Another was the need to retrofit controllers on appliances and/or more expensive remote reading meters. If the internet angle takes off, look for those other uses to follow.


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