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2004-12-18

Major National ISP tells FCC BPL not "Commercially Viable"

from the ARRL (paraphrased for brevity):
Officials of Internet service provider EarthLink told the FCC that broadband over power line (BPL) cannot compete with the dominant cable or DSL technology today or in the near future. EarthLink President and CEO Garry Betty and other company officials met November 16 with FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Commission attorney Aaron Goldberger to deliver an ex parte presentation on several Wireline Competition Bureau and Common Carrier Bureau proceedings.

"EarthLink discussed that it has invested in and is in trials with several potential 'third wire' broadband transmission paths to the home, including WiFi, WiMax, MMDS and broadband over power lines," EarthLink Counsel Mark J. O'Connor informed FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch in a November 17 letter. "However, EarthLink pointed out that cable and DSL still account for virtually all consumer broadband connections and that none of these alternative technologies offer a commercially viable alternative today or in the near future."

An EarthLink analysis indicated that BPL is the most expensive of the broadband technologies it evaluated. In a chart titled "Next generation broadband," EarthLink said that wireless and BPL "are not likely to be competitive in cost and performance with cable and DSL over the last mile to the home."

EarthLink judged as "not successful" one unspecified BPL technical trial using Amperion equipment in a "wireless/BPL combo." In discussing other trials using Ambient and Current Technologies equipment--in one of which EarthLink had invested-- the ISP's assessment was that the high cost per household passed-- $125 in both instances-- would require a better than 15 percent market penetration to attain a competitive cost.

ARRL's reporting of EarthLink's submission to the FCC apparently struck a nerve at Ambient, with which EarthLink has a business relationship. In a classic case of shooting the messenger, Ambient CEO John J. Joyce took the League to task on behalf of the BPL industry in a statement posted via Market Wire on the CBS MarketWatch.com Web site. Joyce seemed to suggest that the League itself had provided the EarthLink information and was spinning the company's remarks to advantage.

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the League stands by its account, which Joyce characterized as a "claim" on the ARRL's part. "ARRL's report on the document was accurate in every way, and we stand by our report," he said. "The conclusions given are not ours, but EarthLink's. Anyone who wishes to do so can read the submission for themselves."

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