In the city of Clyde, Ohio, high-speed Internet service could soon be as simple as plugging into the electric outlet.
Broadband-over-power-line service offers consumers another choice to obtain Internet service, in this instance, anywhere they have an electric outlet.
BPL, as it's known in the industry, competes with cable, DSL telephone service, and wireless for high-speed Internet access, at speeds ranging from 300k to 2 million bits a second.
Network World, which tracks information technology, says those speeds compete favorably with its competition.
And by the end of the year, Clyde residents will have access to that technology, City Manager Daniel Weaver said yesterday.
One difference is the service can be less expensive than DSL and cable.
Tonight, Clyde City Council will vote on a resolution to hire a pair of New York state firms to design and provide technical support for Clyde's venture into high-speed Internet connections.
Mr. Weaver said a pilot test has gone well enough to roll out a full-scale system.
"This is something we looked at three years ago," he said in a phone interview from his office in Clyde. "Council has been very supportive all along."
Clyde would be one of a growing number of communities and utilities offering broadband over power lines. Cynergy in Cincinnati, Pennsylvania Power & Light, and Central Virginia Co-op have been among the largest pioneers in the service.
What makes it easy for Clyde, a city of 6,064 people 39 miles southeast of Toledo, to offer the service is its city-owned electric utility. Data carried on power lines is fed into fiber optic cables to the Internet service providers.
Clyde will later seek a franchise for its own Internet service provider, but the city will not seek to get into the cable business.
Mr. Weaver said the city will continue wiring fiber-optic lines to complete the system.
The city expects to spend $750,000 on the system, and its initial customer sign-up is anticipated to be less than 10 percent of the 2,600 households, Mr. Weaver said.
"If we get between 300 and 500 [customers] I'd be real happy," he said. "We're doing this a step at a time to let it evolve."
The BPL cost for Clyde residents is expected to be around $30 a month, compared with an average of $50 a month for high-speed access via cable, he said.
Time Warner Cable provides high-speed access through cable in Clyde, and Verizon offers DSL service there. But Mr. Weaver said high-speed access is not available everywhere.
Toast.net, an Internet service started in Toledo, also offers DSL in Clyde in partnership with American Broadband & Telecommunications of Sylvania.
"We embrace any new technology that brings broadband to customers," said Kevin David, founder of Toast.net, which provides Internet access to customers nationwide.
Joe Jensen, executive vice president and chief technical officer for Buckeye Express high speed cable offered through Buckeye CableSystem, said from a feasibility perspective, "they've proved it does work."
The question, he said, is whether broadband over power lines can work in the market as another high-speed Internet provider.
One of the limitations of BPL is the shared network of homes that are served by the same transformer on the same bandwidth, he said.
Mr. Weaver doubted whether the Clyde system will continue in its present format a decade from now.
"Eventually, BPL will become obsolete," he said. "Ten years from now, the technology will evolve," relying more on fiber optics that the city will extend to more households as its municipal power system offers more services to its customers.
Left to the major telecommunications firms, he said, Clyde likely would never get a fiber optic network "because the return on investment is just not there."
Contact: Jim Sielicki at: