FCC approves power line delivery of broadband, including TV

The unanimous ruling last week opens the way for power companies to deliver services over their electrical transmission lines

The FCC has approved nationwide deployment of new technology that carries high-speed Internet connections over electric power lines. The unanimous ruling last week opens the way for power companies to deliver television programming, Internet access and telephone service over their electrical transmission lines.

“Broadband-over-powerline” allows subscribers to connect to the Internet by plugging a modem into a conventional electrical outlet. Supporters said it could become a major alternative to cable modem and phone connections if the FCC approval helps it attract investment and the participation of major utility companies.

William Berkman, chairman of Current Communications Group, a five-year-old Germantown company, told the Washington Post that the impact is significant. Current already has pilot projects offering the service to 5000 customers in Cincinnati and several dozen in Potomac. Berkman said the company plans to introduce the service in parts of the Washington area within a year for $30 to $50 a month.

The FCC had limited the new technology to pilot projects while it studied the concerns of critics, including amateur radio operators who said it could interfere with their signals. The FCC unanimously approved wider use of the technology after finding that the interference was manageable. It also set rules last week for monitoring interference.

“The presence of a third universal broadband connection will mean a robust choice for consumers and strong, healthy competition,” FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a written statement.

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