Germany clears way for powerline Net distribution


April 1, 2001



Germany's upper house of parliament cleared the way recently for a new technology that may revolutionize the way homes and businesses are connected to the Internet.

A company called Powerline can now implement high-speed Internet access through the electric utility power lines.

Germany is the test market for Powerline's technology, and if successful, could lead to another method of Internet access here in the U.S.

Tests for the power line distribution system in Europe has been successful. Differences in the power distributions systems between Europe and the U.S. may make the technology more difficult to deploy here.

The technology is seen as one way to bring some competition for Internet access into Germany, which depends mainly on telephone lines for its Internet access.

The Powerline technology will first be deployed in Mannheim, Germany in May. Three thousand customers will take part in the first tests. Powerline will be supplying its technology to five other electric utilities.

RWE, the leading German utility, said its goal is to sign up 20,000 customers by the end of the year. Charges for Internet access will be set up by the amount of data customers receive.

INTERNET@SCHOOL. A study by a nonprofit group that supports the use of technology in schools shows that while most schools have Internet access, most teachers don't spend much time online.

You may recall the group that conducted the survey -- NetDay -- from their debut five years ago. The California-based group held its first NetDay Wiring Event on March 31, 1996, to help get California schools connected to the Internet.

With President Bill Clinton's help, 50,000 volunteers helped get one-quarter of California's 13,000 schools online in a single day.

Since its beginnings, NetDay has continued to promote Internet use in schools, and its recent survey is a barometer of how the Internet has evolved into a must-have school resource.

NetDay found that 97 percent of the 600 teachers surveyed said their schools had Internet access -- but only six percent said they spend an hour or more online at school each day.

Sixty percent of the teachers surveyed said they spend half an hour or less online.

But don't think teachers are avoiding using the Internet. Teachers who were surveyed are Internet savvy -- nearly 90 percent said they were comfortable using the Internet.

NetDay's conclusion is that teachers see the Internet as a research source for students, rather than a teaching tool. Only one-third of the teachers in the survey used the Internet in their classroom teaching.

The answer why is simple. Teachers participating in the survey said they don't have enough time to go online to use the Internet for lesson planning or instruction.

Even if they don't have time to use the Internet as much as they may like, nearly a third said the Internet has changed the way they teach.

Looking at the changes in classrooms since my own days in school, I would have to add that the Internet has changed the way our kids learn as well.

For more information, visit NetDay's Web site at

FILE-SWAPPING UPDATE. As Napster and the music industry continue to argue about the file-sharing company's ability to control the sharing of copyrighted music files, there appears to be a move to bypass Napster all together.

Three major record companies are following the lead of the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, and have begun negotiations to license their music for broadcast via RealNetwork's Web site.

Warner Music Group, BMG Entertainment and EMI are all reportedly working to license their tunes for streaming broadcast via RealNetwork's technology.

RealNetworks makes the popular RealAudio and RealVideo media players. It's efforts to create subscriptions for its services have been helped by the NBA and professional baseball deals, which are exclusive rights to the broadcasts over the Internet.

Napster, which is trying to comply with a court order to block copyright-protected songs from being traded or swapped on its service, is still taking criticism from the music industry for failing to meet the court's ruling.

Another Napster-like service, Gnutella, apparently doesn't warrant the efforts the recording industry is putting into its battle with Napster.

A story on the Web site recently reported that the Recording Industry Association of American was watching but taking no action against Gnutella, mainly because it didn't consider the file network a threat.

Unlike Napster or its many clones, Gnutella has not central computer server that links people together and indexes their files they have to share.

Gnutella operates more like a huge daisy chain, passing file requests down the chain.

For more information on Gnutella, visit

DOT-COM EVICTIONS? With new domains on the way this year to join the existing .com, .org, and .net names, some businesses, groups and individuals may find themselves needing a new Web address.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is currently examining how it manages domain names. One of its proposals could restrict the .org domain to only nonprofit organizations -- and possibly force existing .org domain holders to give up their domains if they didn't qualify as a nonprofit group.

At one time, domain names were free, but were closely administered by the National Science Foundation. In 1993, the NSF transferred registration services to Network Solutions Inc.

The early rules for domain names indeed stated that the .org domain should be for nonprofit groups and organizations. Those rules haven't been enforced for a number of years -- anyone with the registration fee could apply for and receive any domain name except those ending in .gov or .edu, which are reserved for government and education Web sites, respectively.

The .org domain level was designed for Web sites that didn't meet the criteria for .com or .net. Commercial sites were supposed to use .com, and only Internet provider-related Web sites were supposed to use .net.

The threat of possible eviction has prompted the creation of sites to lobby against such action, including

VeriSign Inc. is the company that manages the master list of .com, .net and .org domain names through its contract with ICANN.

The company is proposing to drop management of the .org and .net domains in exchange for longer rights to manage the larger .com domains list.

ICANN's own description of the proposal said it would return the .org domain to its "originally intended function."

That could prove difficult to do, considering the number of "inappropriate" .org Web sites that have been operating for a number of years, including sites for the Associated Press (, and news site

Setting rules is easy, but putting the toothpaste back in the tube won't be an easy process for ICANN.

ICANN's proposals have generated plenty of controversy in the past. This one should be no different.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to, or visit on the World Wide Web.

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