More Than Fiber: DirecTV Mulls BPL While FCC Auctions Prime 700MHz Spectrum

The market for high-speed Internet is about to get a lot more crowded. DirecTV is looking at forming partnerships with power companies to deploy broadband over power lines (BPL) to its customers. Considering the sky-high latency of pure satellite connections, I can see how they'd be eager to get in on this. What I can see happening, however, is a stab in the back from power companies. Remember how so many cable operators (like AT&T) gave @Home the boot to keep the profits for themselves? Never trust an incumbent monopoly, even in an unrelated industry.

Related to this is the upcoming auction for the 700MHz wireless spectrum, a chunk of the retiring UHF analog TV signals phasing out in early 2009. This particular piece of RF real estate can go through obstacles (buildings, trees, hills, etc.) much more effectively than the 2.4GHz signals used by 802.11 wireless networking and is unaffected by weather. The end result is that the airwaves that once carried endless reruns and B movies could now deliver Internet ten times further than WiMax can. Is it any wonder that companies like Verizon and AT&T are salivating at the chance to snap this band right up?

This is leading to a big fight with companies that want an open-access "bring your own device" network that would do away with network incompatibility issues between PCs, cellular phones and all other wireless data devices. (Think of it as UTOPIA for wireless.) This group includes various consumer groups as well as former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale and several venture capitalists and angel investors. It also seems like FCC Chairman Kevin Martin might be in the open access camp, though it's not known how much impact he'll have upon the commission as a whole. This is worth watching for the immense implications it will have in the rural broadband market.

(See full articles here, here and here.)

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