October 15, 2004 12:37 PM PDT

Radio operators OK rules on Net over power lines

Amateur radio operators expressed cautious optimism about new rules for the transmission of broadband Internet access over power lines.

The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which has been the loudest critic against broadband over power lines, or BPL, on Friday said recent decisions on the technology by the Federal Communications Commission were a step in the right direction. Ham radio operators have complained that BPL services disrupt their own signals as well as those of public safety organizations.

In trying to address this issue, the FCC on Thursday outlined rules to prevent power-line access from disrupting important signals. These rules include barring BPL from certain frequencies commonly used by airplanes and excluding services from zones near Coast Guard and radio astronomy stations.

BPL providers must provide a public database of complaints from organizations whose signals were corrupted.

"We'll remain concerned about pollution interference," said ARRL spokesman Alan Pitts. "But the glass is both half-full and half-empty."

Thursday's decisions highlight the FCC's push to someday make BPL a broadband alternative to DSL (digital subscriber line) and cable modem technology, which are controlled by the Baby Bells and the cable industry, respectively. Energy companies such as Cinergy and Progress Energy have launched or tested BPL services in their areas of coverage. Internet service providers such as EarthLink and AT&T have joined some of these tests.

For now, BPL remains more fantasy than reality. The FCC has batted around the idea for many years, and other companies such as Nortel Networks have failed in trying to launch BPL services. Energy companies will have to shift their mentality as well, because the business of delivering broadband service is different than reading meters.

"Not only are (energy companies) deploying new technology, they're getting into a new business," said Yankee Group analyst Patrick Mahoney.

BPL technology provider Current Communications Group, which powers a joint venture with Cinergy in Cincinnati, lauded the FCC rules, which aim to both encourage the development of BPL and address technology concerns.

"I think the rules are a very good balance between giving protection to licensed radio systems while not restricting BPL technology," said Jay Birnbaum, a Current Communications spokesman.

Ham radio operators are waiting to get their hands on a more detailed report on the rules before giving a confident thumbs up. Until then, enthusiasts can only hope their concerns were solved.

"The devil is in the details," said ARRL's Pitts.

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BPL technology
BPL technology

The ARRL says it's OK.
Oh Well, .... 2 Meter (144.000 MHz Stuff) should sound the same.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Misleading Headline
It's the FCC that says it has few concerns, not hte amateur radio community. See
FCC Acknowledges Interference Potential of BPL as it Okays Rules to Deploy It: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2004/10/14/1/?nc=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2004/10/14/1/?nc=1</a>

and see this article (one of many) documenting interference already from trials: ARRL Asks FCC to Shut Down New York BPL Field Trial
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2004/10/11/3/?nc=1" target="_newWindow">http://www.arrl.org/news/stories/2004/10/11/3/?nc=1</a>

Or start with this overview page that explains why BPL is a bad idea:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/" target="_newWindow">http://www.arrl.org/tis/info/HTML/plc/</a>

If BPL interferes with ham radio, the number of operators will decrease below the crticical mass necessary to provide emergency communications, worldwide.

Here's why:
BPL produces interference across the entire spectrum of "high frequency" (3-30Mhz) radio, and a little above and below in fact. The HF frequencies have special properties (on this planet, at least) of being reflected around the world by the ionosphere. A tiny sliver of these frequencies are used by amateur radio operators, but there are litterally thousands of other kinds of licensees worldwide.

BPL power lines radiate this interference, and when the ionosphere is highly reflective, the interference will be sent around the world. Since the FCC denied the request to have the BPL systems transmit identification, there won't be any way for anyone to identify which BPL installation is causig interference, since it might be halfway around the country, or halfway around the world.

There are BPL systems that don't use HF radio waves, but in all the rush to "Step 3: Profit" these technical issues have been ignored, and the comlpanies with the best lobbiests have won.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Heading missleading
The heading:
Radio operators OK rules on Net over power lines

Next to last paragraph of story:
Ham radio operators are waiting to get their hands on a more detailed report on the rules before giving a confident thumbs up. Until then, enthusiasts can only hope their concerns were solved.

From the first paragraph:
"... a step in the right direction."

I have issues in the town that I live in. I can only receive AM stations in the car that are less than 40 - 50 miles away. A lot of areas I can only receive the two or three most powerfull stations - and they have all sorts of noise.

(No, it's not the radio or antenna. Can receive more stations when out of town away from power lines.)

Many places the FM stations even fade out due to noise from the power lines. I don't see that the FCC is going to do anything for the Ham since they don't pay the FCC big bucks.

I'm surprised that the AM stations around the country haven't got together to deal with the power line issues.
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