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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 19, 2009

IBM, IBEC Establish BPL Networks for Rural American Customers

By Anshu Shrivastava, TMCnet Contributor

IBM and International Broadband Electric Communications (IBEC), an Internet Service Provider, have announced that they have begun to establish Broadband over Power Line (BPL) networks for nearly 200,000 rural customers served by 7 electrical cooperatives in Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and Virginia.
BPL technology modifies radio signals to transmit voice and Internet data over electric utility power lines. IBM (News - Alert) officials said that consumers need a modem that plugs into existing electrical outlets in their home or business.
IBEC is funded by low-interest Rural Broadband Access Loans from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program. IBEC said that it’s aiming to bring broadband Internet access to rural communities through existing power line infrastructure.
IBM is said to be the first major systems integrator to enter this market. The company is providing overall technical expertise, project management, and training of the line crews who are installing the BPL technology.
“In the near-term, IBM and IBEC's effort promises to bring broadband access to the scores of the nearly 45 percent of Americans that do not have it today,” said Raymond Blair, director of advanced networks at IBM.
Blair indicated that in the long-term, the effort will lead to the expansion of small businesses and creation of new industries. He expects that this will bring new jobs to rural Americans and drive net new economic growth.
Scott Lee, CEO at IBEC, said that DSL and cable modem service providers are competing head-to-head in many urban areas. However, he added that neither DSL nor cable is feasible in low density, underserved areas (both rural and urban).
He said that DSL requires significant telephone network upgrades, and cable data is not economically viable. ”The only broadband choice for many consumers in rural areas is satellite data service, which does not offer comparable data rates and is more costly than wire line services.”
Grady Smith, CEO at Cullman Electric Cooperative in Alabama, believes that BPL technology can do for rural America today what the Rural Electric Administration (REA) did for it in the 1930s.
Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users. Today’s featured white paper is Fixed Service Strategies for Mobile Network Operators, brought to you by Comverse (News - Alert).

Anshu Shrivastava is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Anshu’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart