Broadband Over Power Listless in California

By Published On: January 9, 2009

What seemed a brilliant plan by regulators in 2006 remains in limbo as 2009 dawns. The California Public Utilities Commission promoted utilities’ developing “broadband over power lines” in April 2006. Yet, as the Federal Communications Commission has a plan that could pump $7 billion into broadband services on its own agenda this year, California utilities appear to have dropped the concept. “It’s too expensive v. the alternatives,” said Paul Moreno, Pacific Gas & Electric spokesperson. The utility ran a pilot project internally in summer 2008, he said, showing a lack of efficiency. Broadband over power lines is considered a path for reduced Internet access costs, particularly for regions with no or limited cable or DSL options. Utilities would provide access at the power plug in consumers’ homes as an alternative to cable or DSL. Regulators claimed that competition from utilities offering that service would bring its price down so more customers could access the Internet. They also warned that utilities entering the territory could become anti-competitive because ratepayers could subsidize the effort unlike other providers with no state backing. A pilot project by a Virginia utility reportedly showed last year that utility-offered broadband was not only slow compared to the competition, but that it had the potential of interfering with emergency broadcast wavelengths. Still, the plan remains on both the FCC and state regulators’ dockets. California regulators who pushed the program over two years ago did not return requests for comment. Federal regulators’ $7 billion in broadband economic stimulus would tap into telephone customers monthly bills.

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