[RFI] RE:NYTimes article touts BPL

Dave Bernstein aa6yq at ambersoft.com
Sun Jul 11 22:08:17 EDT 2004

My response to Mr. Fallows regarding his article in today's NY Times:

From: Dave Bernstein 
Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2004 9:51 PM
To: tfiles at nytimes.com
Cc: dave.bernstein at comcast.net
Subject: BPL is not the Next Big Thing

James, your article "Is Broadband Out of a Wall Socket the Next Big
Thing?" begins by stating that HomePlug and BPL are the same; they are
not! HomePlug is a means of distributing digital information among
devices using power lines within a home. BPL is a means of distributing
digital information to a home by routing such signals over the power
grid. While both approaches involve the insertion of high-frequency
signals onto power-carrying conductors, the two applications are
independent and otherwise unrelated. HomePlug is a functional and
economical solution for many homes, nicely complementing both existing
and nascent technologies. BPL is an ill-conceived attempt by the power
industry to extract more revenue from consumers at a time when that
industry should instead be re-engineering their grid to reliably deliver
electrical power. No matter how it is provided, internet access is not
very useful during a power blackout.

BPL aspires to provide high-speed digital connections between homes and
the internet. This approach directly competes with cable, DSL,
satellite, and the forthcoming WiMAX. It is inaccurate to characterize
BPL as a "last mile" solution because it does not convey signals
directly to homes. An explanatory video provided by the United Power
Line Council (UPLC) - an industry group advocating BPL - explains that
BPL brings high-speed digital signals to a neighborhood power pole.
Completing the path requires the installation of couplers to bypass
power-pole transformers, or the installation of pole-mounted WiFi
transceivers. Unless you live in a new neighborhood designed with BPL in
mind, you can't instantly obtain high-speed internet service, as UPLC's
breathless press releases would have you believe; from the consumer's
perspective, lead-times are comparable to those of cable-based,
satellite-based, or WiMAX-based high-speed internet. The aforementioned
video is available via http://www.uplc.utc.org .

Besides this "small matter of infrastructure", BPL faces another serious
challenge to its economics: it generates electromagnetic interference.
Our power grid was design to transport low-frequency alternating
current, not radio-frequency signals. Inserting radio frequency signals
onto tower-borne cables used to distribute power to our communities
turns those cables into antennas. Many organizations have registered
grave concerns over the impact of grid-radiated interference, notably
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the
International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the American Radio
Relay League. While encouraging further exploration of BPL, a recent
NTIA report said "The federal government has extensive operations that
potentially could be affected by BPL systems. Indeed, federal government
agencies have over eighteen thousand (18,000) frequency assignments in
the 1.7 - 80 MHz spectrum in which BPL systems may unintentionally
radiate". Alliant Energy recently cancelled its trial of BPL technology
in Cedar Rapids after being unable to remedy an electromagnetic
interference problem; the company has abandoned its plan to deploy BPL.
Even with a lenient Federal Communications Commission, BPL providers
face the serious engineering challenge of eliminating this interference
if they are to avoid a continuous stream of lawsuits and injunctions by
institutions and individuals alleging harmful impact. See
ument=6515292045 ,
m , http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/46964 , and
http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/31652 for substantiation of these

Rather than BPL, the Next Big Thing in last mile connectivity will most
likely be WiMAX (IEEE 802.16). It provides much higher bandwidth, goes
right to the home, does not interfere with other services, and does not
limit the consumer's choice to a single provider; one cannot
underestimate the role of competition in both reducing costs and
stimulating innovation. Intel, Motorola, and the more than 100 other
telecommunications companies in http://www.wimaxforum.org are publicly
committed to making WiMAX the ubiquitous analog to WiFi for last-mile
connectivity; see, for example
http://www.intel.com/pressroom/archive/releases/20040121corp.htm and
http://www.intel.com/ebusiness/pdf/wireless/intel/80216_wimax.pdf . 

BPL is too little, too late, with too many problems. Please help your
readers understand that while HomePlug is quite useful for in-home
connectivity, BPL is most likely the Next Big Flop.

          Dave Bernstein

          Wayland, Massachusetts

-----Original Message-----
From: rfi-bounces at contesting.com [mailto:rfi-bounces at contesting.com] On
Behalf Of Pete Smith
Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2004 11:22
To: rfi at contesting.com
Subject: [RFI] Fwd: [CQ-Contest] NYTimes article touts BPL

>Return-Path: <cq-contest-bounces at contesting.com>
>Delivered-To: n4zr at contesting.com
>Delivered-To: cq-contest at contesting.com
>From: "Jim Cain" <cainjim at mindspring.com>
>To: <cq-contest at contesting.com>
>Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2004 06:55:37 -0500
>Subject: [CQ-Contest] NYTimes article touts BPL
>The technology section of the July 11, 2004 New York times has an 
>about BPL by James Fallows, a well-known and respected political
>There is no mention of any downside.
>Jim Cain, K1TN/9 _______________________________________________
>CQ-Contest mailing list
>CQ-Contest at contesting.com

73, Pete N4ZR
The World HF Contest Station Database
was updated on June 5, 2004
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