Google in $100 Million BPL Investment

Google , Goldman Sachs and the Hearst Corporation have
ponied up a combined $100 million to invest in Current Communications Group,
hoping to rapidly expand the reach of broadband throughout the country.

Current Communications, a Germantown, Md.-based company providing
broadband over power lines (BPL), said the investment would offer consumers a faster alternative outlet for voice, video and data services.

“These investments provide us with both capital and operating assistance
as we continue to roll out Broadband-over-Power Line services to provide
voice, video and data services,” William Berkman, chairman of Current
Communications, said in a statement.

BPL as a way of delivering high-speed Internet access was scoffed at not so long ago. Broadband transmissions over electric power lines were a major hurdle for the industry, because they are not shielded to prevent radio interference in the same way as telephone and cable lines are.

Without any such shield, BPL can cause interference with certain radio
frequencies, prompting protests from amateur radio operators, in particular.

However, in 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved rules
clearing the way for commercial deployment of BPL. The decision classified BPL as an unlicensed service, with the rules primarily aimed at limiting interference with licensed radio services.

The FCC established “exclusion zones” in areas near sensitive operations,
such as Coast Guard stations, where BPL must avoid operating on some
frequencies. Amateur radio operators received no exclusions, but the rules
require the establishment of a publicly available BPL notification database
to help identify and resolve harmful interference claims.

Now with the powerful and diverse triumvirate of Google, Goldman and
Hearst — new media, Wall Street and old media — tossing $100 million at
the technology, the idea is likely to gain speed. It is especially of growing
interest in rural areas where DSL and cable service are not prevalent.

“With roughly two-thirds of the nation still without broadband and many
utilities looking for means to upgrade their distribution networks, the
acceleration of Current build-out is a clear win-win for consumers,”
Berkman said.

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