dcsimg

High-Powered Lines

In the near future, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio will become the first municipality in the country to receive broadband over power lines (BPL). The service, which promises at least one megabit per second download and upload speeds, can be accessed via any electrical socket using an adapter that closely resembles a large cell-phone charger. The technology is proven, the Federal Communications Commission is endorsing it, and unlike DSL or wireless, BPL can go anywhere that power goes. And BPL is cheap: the basic one mbps service is priced at $29.95 per month.

High-Powered Lines

by Martin Streicher

In the near future, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio will become the first municipality in the country to receive broadband over power lines (BPL). The service, which promises at least one megabit per second download and upload speeds, can be accessed via any electrical socket using an adapter that closely resembles a large cell-phone charger. The technology is proven, the Federal Communications Commission is endorsing it, and unlike DSL or wireless, BPL can go anywhere that power goes. And BPL is cheap: the basic one mbps service is priced at $29.95 per month.

While BPL is cool, the implications of ubiquitous broadband are far cooler, even disruptive. Imagine what your television, game console, stereo, TiVO, and any number of other devices could do if connecting them to the Internet required nothing more than plugging them in and turning them on. Wireless hot-spots would require nothing more than an electric socket and an antenna.

And just think what will happen when your local power utility challenges your local telephone and cable company for your broadband dollar. In my neighborhood, Pacific Gas and Electric could easily become Pacific Gas and Electric, Internet, and Entertainment. Plug in (literally) a voice-over-IP (VoIP) phone and PG&E can tack on “Telephone” to their moniker as well.

Other “What If?” questions spring to mind: What if all television signals traveled over broadband? What if every device was truly and uniquely addressable (via something like IPv6)? What if everyone had Internet access?

The first question is fun to ponder — would independent Internet Protocol television stations crop up? — but the two latter issues are especially interesting, because ubiquity requires infrastructure. BPL may provide access over existing power lines, but computers are a luxury for many, and few gadgets sport a broadband connection, let alone an operating system capable of running Internet-aware applications.

Ubiquity may require infrastructure, but infrastructure requires capital, even if it’s just an extra few consumer dollars to pay for the additional parts required to make that Sony television “smart.”

But if you’re like me, your consumer dollars are precious and few, and consumer electronics manufacturers aren’t known for their lavish spending, either. Dell and other vendors may happily give Microsoft $45 out of a total cost of $450 to build a new computer, but arguably those same vendors don’t have a choice: after all, consumers ask for, or perhaps expect, Windows. (Score one for Microsoft marketing.) For a Philips, Westinghouse, or TiVO, Windows is overkill, and a ten percent royalty — moreover, any obligation to Microsoft — is likely too much. And after all, will Joe Sixpack care what operating system his television runs? Nope.

Luckily, vendors shopping for an embedded operating system have many more choices, Linux included. Linux is rumored to be in the Playstation 3, is in smart telephones in China, and can even run on an iPod. As smart devices proliferate, the smart CTO and CFO will choose Linux.

The promise of BPL seems enormous. Like other services we depend on and simply assume are in place — water, electricity, telephone, and even the personal computer — BPL could make broadband a commodity, and more importantly, combined with Linux, a convenience we can take for granted.

booting_01

Martin Streicher, Editor

Fatal error: Call to undefined function aa_author_bios() in /opt/apache/dms/b2b/linux-mag.com/site/www/htdocs/wp-content/themes/linuxmag/single.php on line 62