Power Struggle

RECLASSIFYING BPL AS AN information service as one association is proposing could be the break the access technology needs. BPL has been fighting an uphill battle; most analysts are not bullish on the concept, and providers positions run hot and cold.

Along with CURRENT Communications Group LLC, Texas-based TXU Electric Delivery, a subsidiary of TXU Corp., is working to roll out the technology to its customers by the end of this year, said a TXU spokesperson.

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TXU would be the first BPL provider on such a large scale. Late last year, IDACOMM, the communications subsidiary of Idaho-based utility IDACORP that serves 11 western states, discarded its plans to offer BPL, citing lack of adoption by other utilities.

In an effort to speed things along, the United Power Line Council (UPLC), an alliance of electric utilities and technology companies promoting BPL deployment, has asked the FCC to categorize BPL as an information, rather than telecommunications, service. Such a classification would exempt BPL from common carrier obligations.

In light of the FCCs willingness to deregulate DSL and cable modem, there is ample precedent for what were asking, says Brett Kilbourne, UPLCs director of regulatory affairs and associate counsel. An FCC spokesman did not return calls regarding when the agency plans to respond to the BPL request.

The UPLCs petition, not surprisingly, has drawn the opposition of competitive carrier association COMPTEL, which has blasted the FCC for deregulating wireline broadband from Title II to Title I services. Before the FCC makes any decisions, COMPTEL wants the agency to issue a notice of inquiry, a document that asks questions in an effort to gather information for an informed proposal.

Meanwhile, at the state level, the California Public Utilities Commission in April was to consider rules for BPL deployments in the Golden State.

Analysts for New Paradigm Resource Group Inc. (NPRG) are skeptical about BPLs viability, in part because utilities are not rewarded by regulators for taking chances and, hence, have little incentive to be on the leading edge of a telecom service, NPRG analysts write.

CURRENT Communications Group LLC
National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners
New Paradigm Resources Group Inc.
TXU Corp.
TXU Electric Delivery
United Power Line Council, The

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