BPL is a technology that uses radio waves, transmitted over power lines, to provide broadband Internet or other data connectivity. The problem with BPL is simple physics: Radio waves like to fly off into space. When they do, interference results. In order to get broadband speeds, BPL uses a large number of frequencies, some of which are capable of traveling literally around the world even on the small transmitter power that BPL systems use.

BPL would operate as an unlicensed radio service under Part 15 of the FCC’s rules. This is the same section that allows most of the unlicensed devices used in home and business. All of these devices are supposed to operate in such a way that they don’t interfere with licensed radio services.



Among the leaders in the fight against BPL is the amateur radio community. Ham radio operators, including myself, see BPL as a potentially huge source of communications-disrupting interference. The hams have found an ally in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the Commerce Department agency charged with coordinating the federal government’s own radio systems.



The NTIA has warned the FCC that, unless it’s carefully regulated, BPL could cause significant interference to government users of shortwave radio frequencies. The NTIA is conducting its own BPL study, though it has not yet been released. Another study, by ARRL, the national organization for amateur radio, is also due to be released in the next few weeks to months.



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