Feel the Buzz -- Joel Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes about an electrifying subject: using power transmission lines for data access.
For background, according to the November 1997 issue of The Seybold Report on Internet Publishing, European and Southeast Asian power grids have an advantage over the U.S. in their use of a higher voltage. In the U.S., 110-volt power distribution to individual homes is more granular; about 10 houses are served by each final transformer, requiring more equipment to reach the end user digitally and causing more attenuation which makes it harder to encode information. In the UK, however, hundreds of households can be served their 220 volts from a single distribution point.
Also of note is that European grids have fiber-optic lines running to most of the transformers, installed years ago for monitoring the network. This is not true in the U.S. Predictions on throughput range from 500 Kbps to 1 Mbps, or something close to ADSL and cable modem speeds.
There is a consortium (which includes NorTel) that has developed technology to enable 1 Mbps connections to the Internet over the electricity network. Obviously all the cabling is in place, and the system is now in trials in the northwest of England. There will be no dial-up costs, so it will be like having a leased line into your home for a fraction of the cost. It appears poised to blow cable modems out of the water, especially in the UK where there is such low cable coverage.