[RFI] BPL in the NY Times

Pete Smith n4zr at contesting.com
Sun Jul 11 11:32:40 EDT 2004

At 09:11 AM 7/11/2004, you wrote:

>A report in the Sunday NY Times from a visitor to a BPL equipped  home in the
>Potomac MD test site.
>Not a single word of interference to others.

FWIW, I have already replied, as follows:

"Mr. Fallows' positive review of Homeplug in-home networking in your July 
11 edition was unfortunately coupled with applause for a much less 
attractive and potentially more destructive technology, delivery of 
broadband data over powerlines (BPL, for short).

Unlike HomePlug, which uses only the wiring inside ones' house for data 
distribution, BPL aims to deliver BPL from Internet Service Providers over 
the many miles of electrical distribution wiring.  This is  the ubiquitous 
1-3 wires you see atop power poles around the country, normally carrying 
7500-11,000 volts.

BPL would use radio frequencies in the range 2-80 MHz.  The trouble is that 
it aims to use those frequencies on an unlicensed basis, called Part 15 
after the relevant section of the FCC's rules, which requires that the user 
not interfere with licensed services, and that it accept any interference 
it receives from such services.  And there's the rub --  2-80 MHz 
frequencies are used by a wide variety of licensed stations, including TV 
channels 2-5, aeronautical and marine mobile, public safety, federal and 
state government emergency services, as well as radio amateurs, of which I 
am one.

The physics are inescapable -- the BPL radio signals distributed over power 
distribution networks will radiate from those wires just as if they were 
antennas -- because that is what they are, when signals at radio 
frequencies are put on them.  BPL is already, even in small-scale test 
situations, interfering with a variety of licensed services.  Authorities 
as diverse as the Aeronautical Radio provider ARINC, the Boeing Company, 
and the NTIA, as well as the national amateur radio organization ARRL, have 
already called attention to the risk that BPL will disrupt essential safety 
communications.  Others have demonstrated that even low-power radio 
transmissions by licensed stations will interrupt BPL service and may even 
damage BPL equipment.  These issues do not arise with cable internet and 
DSL, because their transmission cables are designed for data and do not 
radiate, when properly installed and maintained.

Despite these inherent and largely insoluble problems, the FCC continues to 
promote a train wreck by endorsing this technology.  The more that BPL is 
embraced by power companies desperate for new profit centers, the more 
destructive the inevitable collapse will be.  It is particularly ironic 
that with WiMax on the horizon, FCC continues to promote BPL as if it could 
be competitive with existing cable internet, DSL and other well-entrenched 
services, much less future wireless internet distribution systems.  All 
that will happen is that power companies will be stuck with a large 
investment in technology they can use only at the risk of disrupting 
essential communications.

A final side note -- Mr. Fallows bemoans weak WiFi signals in some parts of 
his house, and says there is no workable solution other than 
HomePlug.  Please let him know that there are a variety of WiFi products 
becoming available now to deal with just this problem -- such as 
directional and gain antennas as well as "slave" relay points.  No need to 
spend money on  HomePlug, and certainly no need to endorse BPL!"

73, Pete N4ZR
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was updated on June 5, 2004
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