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FCC Reroutes Broadband Over Powerlines

WASHINGTON: The provision of broadband over power lines is back in the chute at the Federal Communications Commission after emerging from a court challenge leveled by ham radio operators. The commission is seeking further comments on a revision of the rules for BPL it set forth nearly five years ago. One point of contention from the hams involved the measurement procedure used in the original BPL tests. The American Radio Relay League challenged the methodology in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and won a remand last year. The ARRL was concerned about interference from BPL, which theoretically would provide broadband access through regular electrical outlets.

Part of the court's remand was based on claims by the ARRL that the commission "redacted" the studies upon which it based its BPL rules. Consequently, the FCC placed unedited staff measurement studies, completed in Allentown, Pa., in May, 2003, in the record. The FCC said it also provided more information about why it used the methodology in question, as well as newer studies backing it up.

Much of the FCC's Request for Further Comment and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking describes the BPL odyssey, and how the measurement figures were derived. The technology uses VHF frequencies, where a lot of DTV reception problems have occurred. However, BPL is unlikely to interfere with DTV reception, says transmitter expert and TV Technology contributor Doug Lung.

"While it is unlikely BPL interference will affect DTV reception on high-band VHF channels, and even less likely it will cause problems for UHF DTV reception, it is certainly a concern for amateur radio operators, shortwave listeners and agencies using low-band VHF spectrum for critical communications," Lung wrote in his weekly RF Report.

Comments on the FCC's latest BPL proposal are due in roughly 30 days (after publication in the Federal Register); reply comments are due 45 days.
-- Deborah D. McAdams