IEEE Publishes Final Broadband-over-Power-Line Standard
February 7, 2011
PISCATAWAY, N.J.: I-triple-E has published its standard for
Broadband over Power Lines. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics
Engineers finalized BPL 1901TM in December and has made them available for
purchase. The controversial Internet access technology has been around for
several years, but the absence of an IEEE standard has been but one hindrance
to its wider adoption.
With BPL, merely plugging a browser-equipped computer into a wall outlet yields
high-speed Internet access. 1901-compliant local area networks are said to
support data rates of more than 500 Mbps, and first- and last-mile ranges of
1,500 meters. The technology scheme allows for the transmission of data over
standard AC power lines of any voltage, at frequencies less than 100 MHz.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted rules for BPL in 2004, setting
off a firestorm of objection from ham radio operators. The
American Radio Relay
League, representing hams, contended that BPL interfered with their
operations, as well as short-wave and low-band VHF communications.
The FCC in 2006
its rules, denying ARRL requests to prohibit BPL pending further study. The
organization sued, and in April 2008, a federal court ordered
the commission to provide BPL emissions studies it had previously redacted. Those
documents were released July 17, 2009, along with a Further
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The ARRL continues to fight it.
The League filed a complaint against BPL provider IBEC Inc., on behalf of
members in several communities. The group contends that IBEC’s BPL systems in
Lovingston and Fairfield, Va.; Somerset, Pa., and Martinsville, Ind. are
creating “ongoing harmful interference,” and violations of current FCC rules.
“ARRL respectfully requests that the commission initiate immediately an enforcement
proceeding regarding these PBL systems and cause them to cease operation until
such time as they are each in full compliance with the commission’s rules,” the
group’s Dec. 29, 2010
Part of the FCC’s intention in facilitating BPL was to help small and rural
communities deploy high-speed Internet access services. Manassas, Va., while
not exactly rural nor small but rather a tony suburb of Washington, D.C., did
the first wide-scale launch of BPL in 2005. Ten Mbps service was just $25 a
month, but just 600 or so residents and business signed up. City officials
pulled the plug last April. In comments filed with the FCC, James Whedbee says
BPL’s abandonment in Manassas demonstrates the technology is “obsolete.”
“If BPL is allowed to exist at all the in the aftermath of these proceedings,
the commission should adopt the ARRL’s more stringent regulations,” he
“However, even the commission’s watered-down proposal is better than allowing
BPL to continue as it does now.
The IEEE’s 1901 documents are available at its standards site; and
at its digital
-- Deborah D. McAdams