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Cinergy to Use Power Lines for Web Access

March 03, 2004|From Associated Press

A division of utility Cinergy Corp. plans to offer high-speed Internet service over its power lines, letting customers connect by simply plugging a computer modem into existing electrical outlets.

The idea of broadband service over power lines, or BPL, has been around for some time, but this appears to be the first large-scale rollout of the technology by a major utility.

"There have been several utilities working on this quietly and doing pilot programs," said Alan Shark, president of the Power Line Communications Assn., an industry trade group.

"Everyone has been very cautious in deploying this technology, but I think the demand will be incredible."

Cinergy Broadband is teaming up with Current Communications Group, a Germantown, Md.-based technology company, to offer the service in sections of Cincinnati this year. Plans call for an eventual expansion into Kentucky and Indiana. Cincinnati-based Cinergy hopes to market the service to 55,000 of its 1.5 million customers this year.

A second venture will bring the technology to smaller municipal and cooperatively owned power companies, covering 24 million customers across the United States.

The parties are committing more than $70 million to the ventures.

Cinergy and Current Communications believe that the new technology offers several advantages over digital subscriber line and cable modem service, including the fact that no professional installation or additional wiring in a home is needed.

One major broadband rival, Time Warner Cable, claimed not to fear the competition. Spokesman Keith Cocozza said his company could offer better value by bundling several services together, such as Internet access with cable TV and phone service.

The Federal Communications Commission has said it will begin developing rules for the technology as another way to provide broadband access to consumers. FCC Chairman Michael K. Powell said last year that because every building has a power plug, it "could simply blow the doors off the provision of broadband."

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