After my initial post on the BPL tests to be undergone in CA, I did a little research. Readers had raised questions about the technology, specifically about the interference BPL causes with radio signals. I had assumed, and still assume the tests would take the questions over the technology in to account. But I think it’s valuable to bring these issues to light. There are many web sites devoted to the technology, both pro and con. But an article by Jessie Seyfour of the San Jose Mercury News summed up the issues quite nicely:

For one thing, it’s slow. Present technology allows it to run about as fast as DSL at its slowest, said Juan Fernandez, an analyst with Gartner. High-end DSL and cable services are five to eight times faster.

As part of the commission’s ruling, a BPL company would be responsible for costs associated with adding equipment to poles.

BPL Internet signals take the form of radio pulses that piggyback on the electrical wires. The radio pulses leak off the power lines and interfere with nearby radio signals.

Rural areas

It’s also unlikely that BPL will end up being the solution to providing broadband to communities where there’s no DSL or cable-modem service. That’s because it’s not as simple as plugging a computer into the socket, Fernandez said. To get BPL out to rural areas, a significant amount of equipment needs to be installed on the lines.

“You need some subscriber density to make it cost-effective,” he said. “It’s not really the kind of thing for farms.”

The last paragraphs about the cost to deploy BPL in rural areas were the most disappointing. I can only hope that increased focus on BPL will bring about improvements in the technology and a drop in cost. Stay tuned.