October 18, 2004 4:05 PM PDT

Broadband to get power boost in Big Apple

If technology that transmits Internet traffic across power lines can make it in New York City, it can make it anywhere.

That's what Internet service provider EarthLink is banking on as it prepares to test a new broadband service over Consolidated Edison's power lines in Manhattan.

EarthLink and Con Edison have teamed with Ambient, a power line communications technology developer, to get the trial rolling. The companies plan to launch the pilot in November with one apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, said John Joyce, president and CEO of Ambient. Final details regarding the pilot are still being finalized, he added.

EarthLink, Con Edison and Ambient have been working together since 2002 on technology that provides broadband services directly over the nation's power grid into homes through an electrical socket.

Two years ago, the companies launched their first trial together in Briar Cliff Manor, N.Y., a suburb of the Big Apple. The initial footprint of the network, which has made power line communications available to nearly 1,000 homes in the area, is nearing completion, Joyce said. Now the companies plan to expand the trial, which had provided broadband services to a handful of residents, to between 100 and 200 homes.

EarthLink and Con Edison are both investors in Ambient. EarthLink owns less than 5 percent of the company's stock, while Con Edison owns just more than 20 percent.

Using power lines to access the Internet is an idea that's been around for years. Because electricity travels at a lower frequency than Internet signals, the two can co-exist on the same line without interference.

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