Internet over power lines possible but is it practical?
By JIM BROOKS
electrical lines that have been bringing electricity into your home
for years may one day also bring you high-speed Internet access.
the vision of the future offered by Alan Shark, president of the
Power Line Communications Association, a group promoting technology
to distribute Internet access over power lines.
technology to do it exists, Shark said. "The biggest challenges
now are getting the product to market."
Federal Communications Commission has been examining the technology
in recent months, said Edmond Thomas, chief of the FCC's Office
of Engineering and Technology. "Every power plug in your home
becomes a broadband connection," he recently reported to the
FCC's board of commissioners. "It's starting to look like a
very viable technology."
electrical lines run to nearly all homes, they could potentially
serve more customers than dial-up, cable or DSL Internet access.
least that's the promise. In practice so far, the technology hasn't
quite lived up to that promise.
of using power lines for Internet access is nothing new. CNet.com
has articles going back more than four years on the topic. Three
years ago one news story said Internet access over power lines was
a "near reality."
(Power Line Communication) was quite the rage in Europe in the late
1990s, with a number of successful field trials. And though successful,
there were a few problems. In one trial in an England neighborhood,
metal lampposts were acting as antennae, retransmitting users' Internet
downloads as radio waves. PLC trials in Germany were called successful,
though the connections they provided were little faster than a regular
dial-up Internet connection. Most of the utilities that sponsored
these trials eventually discontinued their research.
say the technology has evolved and improved greatly with time. They
say utilities stand ready to make a bundle by selling Internet access
over power lines.
view is only partly shared by Primen, a company that provides analysis
of the U.S. energy market.
to offer Internet over power lines has indeed improved, according
to David Lineweber, the president of Primen. The real question isn't
one of technology, but one of simple business principles: After
the expense of implementing Internet power-line technology, will
a utility be able to turn a profit?
now, the answer appears to be no," Lineweber said in a press
release last summer. "Our analysis shows that the cost of implementation
is much too high to appeal to a broad customer base."
problem utilities might face is playing catch-up in the already
crowded Internet access field. Utilities would be forced to price
access low enough to compete against existing dial-up, cable and
DSL access providers.
technology may not bring the Web to you via your wall outlet, but
it may help you stay connected during a hotel stay.
hotel in Wilmington, N.C. recently announced it would use PLC technology
to provide Internet access to its 90 guestrooms, meeting rooms and
computer connects to an interface that creates a local area network
with high-speed Internet access by using the building's existing
PLC technology has promise, I suspect the momentum behind "Wi-Fi"
-- the low-power wireless system that's all the rage for businesses
that want to distribute Internet access without running cables --
will dominate the market.
GREAT FIREWALL. In a move to restrict information available
to its people, the Republic of China has begun blocking Web sites
that host online journals, or "blogs."
has long used its national firewall to control what parts of the
Internet its citizens can access. Chinese Web surfers were blocked
from accessing Blogger.com, an online journal Web site, because
of the content one man has been posting.
user was posting instructions for other Chinese Web surfers who
wished to circumvent the country's national firewall. Doing so would
bypass the government's censorship and control. In addition to blocking
sites with their firewall, the Chinese government has also hijacked
domains by changing their DNS information to also block users' access.
isn't a new phenomenon in China. New laws were passed more than
two years ago prohibiting access to Western news sites, and requiring
anyone posting news to have special permission from the government.
UNDER FIRE. The users of the KaZaA peer-to-peer file-swapping
software better enjoy the service while they can, because the heat
judge recently gave record labels and movie studios the green light
to sue Sharman Networks, KaZaA's parent company, in federal court.
has argued all along it could not be sued in the U.S. because the
company is incorporated in the South Pacific island of Vanuatu and
based in Australia -- which puts it outside the reach of the U.S.
entertainment industry has collectively pursued legal action against
Sharman for copyright infringement. KaZaA has millions of users,
who use the service to swap files, including copyrighted music,
video and other works.
District Judge Stephen V. Wilson refused to dismiss the lawsuit
against Sharman because it does most of its business in the U.S.
-- where its software contributes to the alleged piracy and copyright
infringement. When doing business in the U.S., the company is subject
to U.S. copyright laws, the judge wrote in his ruling.
representative said the company would file a counterclaim.
NEWS. Computer security firms are reporting the latest computer
virus making the rounds is the W32.Sobig.A@mm virus.
virus is a threat to Microsoft Windows 95 and later operating systems.
Once a computer is infected, it e-mails itself to all addresses
on a PC, and can spread across a network.
W32.Sobig.A@mm is relatively easy to detect. It arrives as an attachment
to an e-mail with one of these four subject lines: "Re: Movies,",
"Re: Sample," "Re: Document" and "Re: Here
is that sample."
actual virus is attached to that e-mail as a .pif file. Executing
the file starts the infection.
virus recently was ranked the second most-reported virus, second
only to the Klez virus, according to Symantec.
anti-virus programs will detect the bug; if you have questions about
a possible virus on your computer, I recommend visiting your anti-virus
software provider's Web site for an update.