Internet over power lines

When utility Cinergy Corp. offered eligible customers Internet service over the electric powerlines a couple of months ago, it expected about 10% of them to sign up annually as the service was rolled out across its territory. However, 15% of customers in just one area are already connected, representing 750 homes out of a possible 5,000. Cinergy hopes to expand the number of possible connections to 55,000 by year end.

The Internet service is managed by Current Communications Group LLC, Cinergy’s partner in the venture. The technology allows users to connect to the Internet by plugging a small modem into any electrical outlet in their homes, and then connecting their computers to the Internet through the modems.

Meanwhile utility PPL Corp. has announced that a downtown hotel in Allentown, Pa., is using its electrical wires for high-speed Internet access. The Crowne Plaza hotel is PPL’s first paying commercial customer for broadband over power lines service (BPL). All 225 guest rooms and public areas can connect computers to the Internet through a modem that is plugged into a power outlet, and data is transmitted over the hotel’s power lines to and from an antenna on the roof, which communicates directly with PPL’s own fibre-optic network.

PPL expects that the Crowne Plaza will be the first of many similar models; it follows on from five trial installations over the past year. However, the company has given no indication that it plans a full-scale roll-out of the technology, which is still facing considerable opposition from some quarters – it is believed that it could disrupt shortwave radio and high-frequency transmissions used for emergency response situations, among others.