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Broadband Over Power Lines vs. Radio Relayers

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the breaking-too-many-eggs-perhaps dept.

Wireless Networking 147

amaiman writes "Recently, broadband Internet access has been increasing around the country. These broadband signals, while providing Internet access to remote communities that would normally not be able to receive broadband, are causing enormous interference to the radio spectrum. This article details some of the problems, and a video available on the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) site shows exactly how much interference the broadband power lines can cause. Detailed information is also available on the ARRL site."

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But I thought... (5, Interesting)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478921)



But I thought that hams where saying that BPL would destroy radio communication for 100's of miles around? This video only shows the effect when they are very near the powerlines.

They also play word games by saying it is on the agenda at the FCC. On the agenda doesn't mean that they will approve it, it simply means they are looking at it.

Lastly, it doesn't help hams when hams say they will just pump out a 1kw signal to drownout the BPL signal, that action will simply result in the group with the most votes winning, and that isn't the hams.

Re:But I thought... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478956)

Yeah, just like you said, all those fucking ham eating pieces of shit need to go fuck themselves.

They want to get rolled over by progress? Let the world roll over their fucking asses, we'll all be better off without 'em.

Re:But I thought... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478974)

See how far your cell phone or internet connection will protect you when Masar al Faqar blows himself up along with half your city.

Re:But I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479371)

How about I see how far I can get my cell phone and/or internet connection up your ass, you piece of anti-american shit.

Re:But I thought... (5, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478995)

"Lastly, it doesn't help hams when hams say they will just pump out a 1kw signal to drownout the BPL signal, that action will simply result in the group with the most votes winning, and that isn't the hams."

You forget that amateur radio is the primary user on said frequencies. This means that if their broadcasting interferes with your Part-15 "This device shall make no interference, and this device shall receive interference, even if it causes undesired operation" broadband service, tough shit. This doesn't mean that ham radio operators are out to screw over the world, but many, many operators have very powerful rigs and won't really be very worried if you try to move into their territory on the spectrum.

I wonder if anyone has looked into how this'll affect business band radio, which is often on frequencies near amateur radio. That'll be an interesting one, since those users are specifically granted commercial licenses on those frequencies for communication purposes...

Re:But I thought... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479002)

And if very many hams do what you suggest the laws will be changed and those hams will lose their licenses and have to pay fines.

It may not be right, but that is what will happen. BPL will get more votes than hams.

Re:But I thought... (5, Informative)

dougmc (70836) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479038)

And if very many hams do what you suggest the laws will be changed and those hams will lose their licenses and have to pay fines.
Perhaps, though that would require that the law change. Currently, the hams CAN legally do this.

Note that it's only a *very* small subset of the ham community that's even considering deliberately jamming BPL. Most hams are considerate to a fault, and wouldn't retaliate like that.

But for now, if you need to use 1500 watts to make a contact, it's legal for a ham to use 1500 watts to make that contact (on most bands), even if it causes problems for BPL. The law says you need to use the minimum amount of power to get the job done, and most hams do that. But if you need 1500 watts to get the job done, then you can do that.

(For the record, I'm AD5RH. And I don't have any equipment capable of putting out over 200 watts.)

Re:But I thought... (3, Insightful)

shepd (155729) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479072)

>And if very many hams do what you suggest the laws will be changed and those hams will lose their licenses and have to pay fines.

Yeah. Good luck. The minute that happens, Mexico and Canada will start running high power at those frequencies.

Radio waves don't care about political borders. And it took Canada 20 years before we even got laws banning pirate US satellite equipment. It'll be another 100 before we get laws to protect US powerline broadband.

I suppose if you live in the center of the US, you'll be ok. Quickly! Everyone! Move to Kansas and get away from those other pesky countries!

>It may not be right, but that is what will happen. BPL will get more votes than hams.

Just about everything does, but HAMs still have their frequencies. Partly because if Americans lose them to commercial interests, nobody else cares, and the bands become useless anyways, except for short range communications.

Re:But I thought... (3, Informative)

TWX (665546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479132)

"And if very many hams do what you suggest the laws will be changed and those hams will lose their licenses and have to pay fines."

You forget that the FCC rules aren't run like regular laws. The FCC comes up with policies and procedures to follow, and the federal government's laws only state that if you want to participate, you go talk to the FCC and follow their judgements.

Remember too, that ham radio has been around for fifty years. Some very high profile people like Barry Goldwater have been ham radio operators. There might not be anyone of particular notoriety that stands out in the hobby right now, but there are well established lobbyist groups, a close-knit community, and usually willing to stand up for the priviledges granted to them. They won't just roll over.

The real fun will start as soon as a BPL installation jams an automated repeater, and that repeater's owner presses the FCC to fine the BPL owner, which under their rules they'd have to at least investigate.

Longer than 50 years (4, Informative)

mjallison (665213) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479904)

The ARRL just celebrated it's 90th anniversary. Ham radio was around before that.

Re:But I thought... (3, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479129)

The FCC could and probably will just take that band from the Hams. The FCC will just say that the use of that band for BOPL dose more for the public good than keeping them for the small number of hams that use them.

Re:But I thought... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479509)

Except those bands are assigned under International treaty. I know the current administration does't give a damn about treaties but there is reasons to continue honoring them. I remember the 250Kw station in Mexico XERA that could black out half the other stations in the Southweat when it was on the air.

Re:But I thought... (2, Insightful)

latroM (652152) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479027)

I guess that the portable equipment which they use isn't as sensitive as a permanent radio shack with directional yagis. BPL would make QRP (low power operating) impossible because of the increased noise level. More noise causes the need for stronger signal and that causes greater power levels thus causing more interference to BPL. Don't forget that HF waves (3-30MHz) can travel thousands of miles, so the effect isn't local.

de OH6GFR

Re:But I thought... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479055)

Look out your window - every amateur radio operator who lives within a couple hundred yards of a powerline will be affected. Not only that, but, according the the ARRL site, rural emergency radio communications (Fire Department, Ambulance, etc) will also be affected. Don't forget, also, that the frequencies that we're talking about are used by amateurs to provide emergency communications during natural disasters, health and welfare traffic, as well as comms during public events like marathons, bike races, parades, etc.

BTW, it's not a matter of pumping up the transmit power either. It's on the receive where BPL causes the biggest problems. You're already trying to listen to a whisper in crowd, and BPL is like an obnoxious car salesman with a bullhorn.

Cumulative effects (5, Informative)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479071)

Shortwave radio communication over any long distance (commercial, military and hobbyist) often deals with weak signals. Each broadband power line adds to the background noise cumulatively raising the problem. One power line won't trash your TV signal (unless you are very close), but each one adds noise until all you have is snow.

Its like people talking in the background - a couple of people don't do much harm but when you try and talk across a room full of quietly talking people two things happen

1. The cumulative background noise reduces the signal
2. You turn the volume up (as the amateur radio people will have to and although entitled too don't wish too because it causes other users problems)

When you turnt he volume up, they all have to talk louder, so you get a fight between high and higher BPL power (to avoid radio wiping out internet, and higher and higher radio power for the same reason). At which point nobody can communicate usefully and lots of third parties are harmed.

HF interference isn't just an amateur radio problem either - you might well find you get 802.11 dead zones if you are near a power line using it. You may not be able to use radio controlled toys in an area with too many power lines and so on. Finally HF is essential to things like flying medical services and some rural communcation systems.

It all gets quite messy when this happens because good radio practice is the lowest possible power. The lower the power you can use the more people can use the same frequency. If everyone has to use 1KW then you'll get a lot less frequencies.

I'd also say their description of the FCC is in tune with its historical decision making - just look at the monopolisation of US commercial radio and the continued unneccessary exclusion of most small transmitters which could exist and other countries have proved are not a problem. Of course BPL background noise might well wipe out the scope for very low power radio stations too.

BTW: BPL trials in the UK (way before the US) were shelved for several reasons but intereference was a big one.

It shouldn't be insoluble - one nice property of radio is that if you can get the BPL encoding frequencies high enough then the interference problems become much less of an issue.

(PS: I defy you to find a radio astronomer who won't use expletives when asked abtut BPL..)

Re:Cumulative effects (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479435)

Anal Cocks, can I touch your little kernel?

Re:But I thought... (5, Insightful)

lku (789885) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479091)

Yeah, if it just were the hams who are against BPL.

There are far more users on the HF-band than just the hams. There are "small" communities like military and air traffic who are opposing BPL as well because it would also ruin their ways to communicate over a long distance without dragging cables with them or to have many radio relay stations along their routes.

Of course then there is satellite communications, but I don't think we will see gear suitable for, lets say, spec-op -troops to carry with them all the time to provide them reliable enough way to communicate with others like they can do with their small HF-radios.

And what about emergency situations? All communications and power is cut out for large areas. How would you call for help? Via radio, of course. But because of BPL nobody can hear your scream. "But hey", you would say, "then there will be no BPL around to mess with the communications". Yes, but there where the power and communcations, and the help of course, is, there might also be BPL so it would be hard for them to receive your message and your critical help might not arrive in time.

No, don't think me as an enemy of technology even after this. BPL is good technology, but at the moment I can't keep BPL mature enough yet to be used for what many are willing to use it now. It may be great technology for a last mile or to be used inside the building, but over airlines (or what ever you call telephone wires hanging on poles) for long distance not. Some European countries (e.g. Germany, IIRC) have banned BPL because of its interferencies and on many more countries it hasn't started to become popular because there has been more problems than success with current BPL technology.

Re:But I thought... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479620)

If this disrupts military comm systems then they need to be fixed. Our enemies have MUCH more powerful jammers.

Re:But I thought... (4, Informative)

aldoman (670791) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479159)

I just got an arrl newsletter telling all of their members to contact their congressmen and tell them what a bad idea this is. Apparently, according to ARRL research, broadband over powerlines causes significant interference not just in ham bands but across the spectrum. Although I havn't exactly looked at the research in detail, I can't see how the power companies could avoid interference. Powerlines aren't shielded, and for any reasonable bandwidth to be passed through the powerlines, the frequency would have to be high enough that a significant amount of power would have to be used. Unshielded wire is always agood antenna, and for some situations the best. Granted it won't be well tuned, but I've seen worse situations cause a lot of interference. My home is near high voltage power lines (read a large part of San Francisco's power) and even at 60hz, I get interfering harmonics all the way up into 10 meters. Avoiding electrical grid contamination is something every ham has fought with. Hopefully I'm wrong, but unless there is some way of preventing interference, this seems like one of those thngs that will be really good for pacbell and really bad for the rest of the wireless world.

Re:But I thought... (2, Informative)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479213)

But I thought that hams where saying that BPL would destroy radio communication for 100's of miles around? This video only shows the effect when they are very near the powerlines.

If you live in a urban/suburban area, look around you: how far can you get from any powerline? While it is true that the interference is subject to inverse-square and dies out rather quickly, if by the time you get out of range of one power line you are getting into the range of another it doesn't take much for 100s of square miles to be radio wastelands. What is the maximum distance you can ever be from a power line in New York City? Los Angeles? Washington, DC? Chicago?

Re:But I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479407)

It's half duplex. When you key up, your receiver is momentarily disconnected from the antenna so you don't fry it.

So 1 KW from your transmitter CANNOT help with the BPL noise that has taken over your receiver when you're not transmitting.

However your friend across town may need a lot of power to reach you when previously, milliwatts would have sufficed. The guy on the other side of the world will not be able to reach you at all.

Lots of people live very near power lines (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479433)

Lots of people live very near power lines. So it will affect lots of people.

Re:But I thought... (2, Informative)

LJGardner (789902) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479581)

Think about it--powerlines are everywhere, and the hams use power to run their transmitters, and more importantly, their receivers. It doesn't take much for an interfering signal to get from the power cord to the antenna terminal. Sure, hams can up the power on their home rigs, but what about their portable and mobile equipment that has proved so important in providing communications during natural disasters, weather emergencies, and yes, even in in NY and DC on 9/11? The ham frequencies to which BPL causes interference are nicely nestled between AM and TV, so the average person isn't likely to experience the interference directly--which is what the FCC and the power companies are counting on. Nevertheless, low-power interference radiating even a short distance from power lines can render these frequencies useless for many (if not most) amateur operations. I've been an active ham for many years, and I can tell you the FCC has almost never been much help when it comes to interference TO amateur operations, but come out in force if someone complains about interference FROM an amateur station. It looks like we are going to be losing our only means of emergency long-distance communications that doesn't depend on an intact infrastructure. This is very significant in any major emergency. True, during a hurricane the power lines will likely be down, so there won't be any interference, but it's going to be difficult to encourage newcomers to get into a hobby that doesn't work 99.9% of the time. That's my .02 worth.

Get into the future (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478922)

Broadcast radio over the internet.

fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478925)

YAY!

yea but.. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478929)

who carez?
i want high-speed warez
fo' shizzle ma dizzle kizzle till the tizzle bizzle is frizzléd.

Yet another example... (4, Funny)

ErichTheWebGuy (745925) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478941)

... of why the FCC is so damned ineffective. I thought the FCC was commissioned to prevent just this sort of thing? Apparently these days it is only another government hypocricy that panders to the highest-paying lobby.

Re:Yet another example... (1, Informative)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478950)

Look at some of the backers of the anti blp group and you will find that some of them stand to lose if bpl takes off. It isn't just the pro bpl side playing games.

Re:Yet another example... (4, Interesting)

ErichTheWebGuy (745925) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478966)

It isn't just the pro bpl side playing games.

Good point. And it further reinforces my argument that the FCC needs to get their act together and stop pandering to people who play these silly games.

Just like, oh I think it was Clear Channel that tried to get XM to stop broadcasting local news because it interfered with the local market. Translation: When you cannot compete fairly, get the government involved and shut down your competitors.

Re:Yet another example... (5, Interesting)

danimal67 (679464) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479141)

I'm disappointed that the FCC even cares about HAM radio operators. FEMA, NTIA, and the Department of Homeland Security have all filed with the FCC proposals 03-104 and 04-37 in favor of BPL if reasonable precautions are taken. These are the govenment agencies HAMs have been saying will be crippled if BPL is deployed. Nowhere in their replies do they spew the doomsday scenarios that HAMs are putting forward to scare people regarding BPL. HAMs love to overstate how critical they are to the communications infrastructure in emergency situations. Nothing I've read yet in reference to emergency situations can replace the following benefits in my mind: BPL can be used by power companies to provide -Intelligent Demand Side Management -Load Switching/Balancing -Fault Locations -Peak Shaving -Power Quality Monitoring -Real-Time Pricing For consumers it can provide -Video on Demand -Content -Alarm Monitoring -Smart Appliances -Broadband -InternetTelephony DS2, a BPL chipset maker has 200mbps chipsets that are working in the field now with a company working with ConEd called Ambient. My point is, even if the HAMs were completely deprived of their use of the HF spectrum (which by every government agency's accounts they won't be), I strongly believe that the benefits of a smarter power grid combined with a third major competitor for broadband outweigh the loss. I am very biased however as I'm heavily invested in Ambient, so take that into account when you read my reply. But look at the FCC replies for yourself to make up your mind before you believe either me or HAM users. Go to http://gullfoss2.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/comsrch_v2.cgi type in 04-37 or 03-104 in proceeding and educate yourself more about the issue.

Re:Yet another example... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479871)

First, the utility stuff is currently already being done over power lines. This is why Amateur's were not able to get an allocation at 137 KHz.

Second. 200 MBps will quickly be eaten up with all the services you suggest. Power lines are horrible for bandwidth. Coax 1000 times better and fiber optic is a few orders of magnitude better than that.

Third. I hope you lose every cent you've invested in Ambient, because you have made a very uneducated choice.

Fourth. I'm building a telsa coil and am learning how to arc weld. Guess what that will do if they roll out BPL in my area. Muhahahahah.

Re:Yet another example... (1)

danimal67 (679464) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480077)

200 Mbps will be eaten up? How do you suppose that? HDTV takes ~19.8 Mbps, and the rest of what I've described takes significantly less. Ambient's DS2 chipset equipment is 10-40x faster than DSL and cable modems per house. Look up the press release yourself. Beter yet go to ConEd's rollout in Westchester County, NY and see it in action. I don't see my cable co giving me more than 3mbps, and BPL is symmetrical, so it's better for VoIP and uploading. If that's your definition of horrible, than count me in. Besides BPL is meant to introduce competition to the Coax line into your house and benefit consumers. Fiber is certainly better, but the power grid is already into 99.9% of homes. What % is fiber now? I thought so. How much will it cost to run into old neighborhoods? Lots. I'm quite comfortable with my investment, thank you. Good luck with your tesla coil, but I'm sure you won't enjoy prison. I'd bet it's a federal offense to damage the power grid these days.

Re:Yet another example... (3, Interesting)

SagSaw (219314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479968)

I'm disappointed that the FCC even cares about HAM radio operators. FEMA, NTIA, and the Department of Homeland Security have all filed with the FCC proposals 03-104 and 04-37 in favor of BPL if reasonable precautions are taken.

I'm a amateur radio operator, and I'm in favor if BPL if reasonable precautions are taken. In other words, hold the BPL companies to the same part 15 rules that all other unlicensed users of licensed portions have to follow (Short version: unlicensed devices operating under part 15 of the FCC rules cannot cause interfearance to licensed services, and must cease operation if interfearance occurs until the cause of the interfearance can be fixed.).

The problem is that I never see this happening. Lets say that I find my local utility is generating interfearance that renders significant portions of the bands allocated to amateur radio unusable. I call the power company and report the problem. When the line workers show up, we manage to agree that the interfearing signal is from their BPL system. (In reality, I imagine that it would take a lot of work to convince the power company that it is their problem). Most likely, the only soluction to the problem will be for the power company to either reduce the power of the BPL signal on the offending portion of the power lines, or to use a filter to notch out the offending frequencies. Either option would degrade BPL service to some of their customers. I seriously doubt that either the power companies will voluntariy degrade service to solve interfearance problems or the FCC will force the power companies to degrade their BPL service in order to solve interfearance problems.

The other issue is that the frequencies which BPL providers will use can quite easily propagate around the world. Lets say that a BPL signal is found to interfear with some licensed service. (amateur, fixed, maritime, land mobile, military, etc.) How do you determine the source of the interfearance when it could be any of a large number of BPL providers accross the country?

I have nothing agaist the use of BPL withing existing part 15 rules. I simply doubt that it will be possible to solve any interfearance problems that occur.

KC8DEI

Re:Yet another example... (4, Informative)

sharkman67 (548107) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479980)

Hmm, did I see you down at the World Trade Center site during 9/11 and the following weeks? Didn't think so. Us Ham radio operators (I came in from Connectucut) were down their providing communications in 24/hr shifts. I provided over 48 hours of service. If you were not so ignorant as to what we do and who we provide service for you wouldn't be so quick to open your mouth.

Now imagine there was some kind of full scale attack on the US where multiple cities were affected. Phones are out, cells are out (or like during 9/11 useless) forget the Internet and your lucky to even have electricity. Hams are no longer operating on HF because some short sited people, who are more concerned with their stock investments, got BPL pushed through. Who is going to provide not only local but long distance communications? You?

Re:Yet another example... (1)

op00to (219949) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480088)

... not that I support BPL, but you have a huge gaping goatse in your story, there.

If there was a large-scale attack on the US, if we're "lucky" to have power, and if the internet is dead, who the hell would be using BPL?

Re:Yet another example... (1)

LinuxGeek (6139) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480724)

What he means is that as (if?) BPL use increases and the inteference makes using radio equipment more difficult, then many HAMs will cease to maintain their equipment and will not be prepared for emergency communication.

Next Saturday (June 26) is Field Day. Hams all over the world will go to remote locations and setup their radios, raise antennas and run this equipment without power from the grid. Lots of people expend a lot of time, resources and energy to stay prepared for emergencies. When they can no longer enjoy this, they will stop.

Re:Yet another example... (1)

danimal67 (679464) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480115)

sharkman, let's imagine the scenario you've brought up. The problem with your logic is that internet would be the last thing affected. If BPL was used to provide VoIP, as AT&T is planning to do an end run around the ILECs, then you have your local and long distance problem solved. Besides, like I said, every government agency that has submitted FCC comments has expressed that with the right planning and technical solutions BPL won't destroy the HF bands. It was just my opionion that BPL for the masses would be more beneficial for society as a whole than preserving the HF bands if BPL would destroy them, but it won't. This is why I'm urging people to educate themselves instead of listen to me or you, both of who are biased at different ends of the spectrum. Here are some quotes from the NTIA BPL phase 2 study. Look it up yourself. "Our BPL study of more than 10 million signal samples shows that solutions exist to all identified BPL technical issues" "Gallagher says the NTIA's Phase 2 study has determined that BPL aggregation (ie, total emissions from multiple BPL systems) and ionospheric propagation "is not a potential near-term problem." The agency predicts that millions of BPL devices can be deployed under the rules the FCC is expected to adopt--probably later this year--before ionospheric propagation and aggregate BPL emissions become an interference issue."

Re:Yet another example... (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479145)

The FCC governs free-speech and breasts on public airwaves. As long as you don't commit one of the many atrocities such as showing your natural body, saying what's on your mind, or questioning the great leader you'll be fine, now if this Broadband interference could enable people to eavesdrop on peoples connections and someone happened to be transferring porn, then you can bet ur ass the FCC will be on the case.

born again? corepirate nazi felon FraUDs? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478954)

yikes almighty?

art& bill's acceleNT ADventure [cnn.com] ?

we guard our american borders.....???

woo-woo? or, lookout bullow? you tell 'em robbIE? then you won't have to spend so much time abusing your fauxking PostBlock censorship cevise?

that's devise? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478971)

yet another self-correction by the pateNTdead eyecon0meter kode.

this stuff is unbreakable, & wwworks on several (more than 3) dimensions.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators... generating newclear power since forever.

No more HAM Radio (3, Informative)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478957)

Art Bell (coasttocoastam.com) has a big beef against BOP (Broadband Over Power) for obvious reasons.

Seriously (4, Interesting)

challahc (745267) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478981)

This article is 4 months old. In March the power company Cinergy in Cincinnati started offering broadband over powerlines. I havn't heard much about that since then, I really would like to hear something about that. Is it still around? Is anyone using it? Are there any complaints?

Re:Seriously (2)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479254)

In the Detroit area the county emergency management people are complaining that Comcast is blocking the emergency networks that were used to coordinate the evacuation of a hospital that had a fire during the blackout last summer. They also used this network for y2k traffic, and is used to coordinate severe weather-related activities.

First the amateurs beat off swatch's asinine to broadcast ads in the middle of 144 now this.

Re:Seriously (2)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479264)

My roommate works tech support for that service, it's handled by Current Communications, and they're very much alive and well. They have some paying customers now, as opposed to just the free trial customers. We're waiting for the service to be available in Columbus...it's 3mbit synchronous, equivalent to 2 T1's up and down, for $30/month. Doesn't quite beat out 6mbit cable for downloads, but the synchronous upstream would be nice.

I wonder (1, Funny)

Moblaster (521614) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478982)

First wardialing, then wardriving, now... warduracelling.

Have it already (2, Interesting)

Nihynjahs (680486) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478987)

Here in Cedar Rapids IA, we already have it, i can go and see the units themselves mounted on the powerlines, and pick them up with kismet and netstumbler along glass road. Im a ham too, so i dont really care for this, they can find a better way to get broadband to everyone.

Re:Have it already (4, Informative)

dougmc (70836) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479070)

Here in Cedar Rapids IA, we already have it, i can go and see the units themselves mounted on the powerlines, and pick them up with kismet and netstumbler along glass road.
Eh? BPL is typically between 2 and 80 mHz. Higher frequencies will be attenuated too much over powerlines to make their use pratical. kismet/netstumbler is for WiFi, 2400 mHz -- MUCH higher than 80 mHz.

If you can pick up these boxes with these tools, then these boxes are not BPL., unless they're some sort of bridge between BPL and WiFi, or can be managed via WiFi or something?

Aha ... google to the rescue!

I just received word a few days ago that Alliant Energy is planning a trial of BPL in an undisclosed part of Cedar Rapids, IA, sometime this year. No specific dates available, but within the next 3 months. The plan appears to be using the 13.8 kV lines to carry the data to various neighborhoods, and then use 2.4 GHz WLAN servers to connect between the HV lines and subscribers.
So they are bridges. Seems an odd way to do it though -- BPL CAN go all the way into the house (that's part of why people like it), so why are they using WiFi for that? If all they're doing is putting APs in each neighborhood, why use BPL at all? Just run standard cox or fiber optics to each AP.

Re:Have it already (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479108)

actually, AFAIK, most of the time where BPL is used it is not used to get down to the house, most of the time the connections are spread through homepna or regular ethernet to the end user and bpl is only used to bring the connection to the neighbourhood/block.

Re:Have it already (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479114)

why use BPL instead of Coax or fiber?
It is cheaper. It costs money to run fiber or coax. Of course my town is stupid. They are running miles and miles of water mains and NOT runnig fiber at the same time!
What a waiste.

Re:Have it already (2, Informative)

Goody (23843) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480067)

The interfering Iowa system is using Amperion BPL equipment. This uses HF BPL on the lines for a backbone, and then WiFi (802.11) for the "last hundred feet" from the pole to the home.

grammar? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478989)

Yo, editors! Wake up!

This is so old, it should be the other way around (5, Funny)

CrystalFalcon (233559) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478991)

The latest RFC don't deal with broadband over power lines any more. It's been tried, and power companies have folded over this bet.

My own power company gave up and found it more efficient to simply lay TCP/IP fiber along the new power lines instead.

No, the new thing is not TCP/IP over electricity lines, but electricity over TCP/IP lines [faqs.org] , as detailed in RFC3251.

Re:This is so old, it should be the other way arou (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479092)

BPL has been tried in Germany by almost all major power companies, but they have basically given up on it. Reason: It does not work, plain and simple.

There are a few companies around that sell so called PLC-to-Ethernet adaptors you can plug into your power outlet to bridge floors or so, but they're not working either.

Testing has shown that the signal attenuation between two of these PLC adaptors is actually higher than the free space attenuation - so these adaptors would work just as good or even better if they were not connected to a power line at all :-)

I think BPL is basically a dead horse, and slashdot should stop beating it.

Correction (1)

afriguru (784434) | more than 10 years ago | (#9478992)

Probably should be "... these broadband signals, while providing Internet access to remote communities that would normally not be able to receive broadband, are causing enormous interference to the radio spectrum."

What about good old lasers? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9478996)

On a previous project we used point to point optical
units, I remember the output was only a few hundred milliwatts but we were p2ping 5Km or more in fair
visibility. Surely optical wavelenghs are not restricted and civillian versions of this sort of
optical tranciever are available? Someone has to line them up at installation, but its as easy as doing a microwave dish. I think a network of point to point laser trancievers would be ideal for remote raural coms in the out back and beyond. With this kind of power efficiency repeaters would easily run from solar cells. What think the /.ers?

Re:What about good old lasers? (1)

DarkVader (121278) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479087)

Fog?

Re:What about good old lasers? (2, Informative)

Bishop (4500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479137)

Fog, rain, snow, trees, and hills all "interfere" with lasers. Laser comms are great for parts of Arizona though. :-)

Re:What about good old lasers? (1)

pacman on prozac (448607) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479189)

Birds too :-)

Still, if it was cheap enough to use for home connections they wouldn't mind loosing the connection when its foggy or when birds fly past.

Re:What about good old lasers? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479325)

Use a Canobeam [canon.com] , problems, I would guess, include

1) Laser safety. We had a canobeam for the '01 UK election, had to check its fitting every day for H&S reasons.
2) Weather - Optical light doesn't work well in fog
3) Polution - I've heard of FSO setups not making it across the road because of the exhaust of a Bus.

Not sure how 2.4Ghz would be different.

Re:What about good old lasers? (1)

LinuxHam (52232) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480705)

Being a ham, I instead prefer the thought of draping fiber all along the powerlines with 802.11 APs at the towers or every third telephone pole. Of course, that would shut down our HSMM efforts just getting under way, but it would certainly provide a nice web of wifi coverage.

subject (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479020)

let's analyse this story, shall we?

amaiman writes "Recently, broadband Internet access has been increasing around the country.


actually, it's not a recent thing, broadband has been increasing for almost a decade now. perhaps the poster meant "broadband internet over powerlines", although it would be an incredible oversight to have left that out in the first sentence of the article.

These broadband signals, while providing Internet access to remote communities that would normally not be able to receive broadband, and causing enormous interference to the radio spectrum.


"while providing..., and causing ...", missing terminating clause.

good job "editors". i fear i will never be able to justify getting a slashdot account as long as this sloppiness continues.

Re:subject (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479047)

the accounts are free...

i beleive you were thinking about "...justify getting a slashdot subscription..."

February is old news - what's happened since then? (4, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479037)

The article's from February. Here's the January Slashdot Discussion [slashdot.org] . Has anything new happened? In particular, how are the recent discussions about using powerline data transmission to feed 802.11 local distribution going? That offers a lot of potential to reduce the amount of wired transmission that can cause interference.

Articles about BPL that get technical often bring up comparisons between how it works in the US vs. Europe. For various historical/technical evolution reasons, including population densities, the two sides of the pond have much different concentrations of number of users per power transformer, and supposedly the technology makes a lot more economic sense in Europe. In the US, one of the more interesting markets is rural access, where distances are too long for DSL and cable TV isn't very common - satellite's an obvious alternative, but satellite latency is annoying. Non-Amish farmers have tended to be fairly wired for a long time - the commodities and futures markets have a major impact on how you can get the best price for your crops, and even old modems and Apple IIs were good enough to get trading information and text-based weather reports, but more bandwidth is always better.

But the other obvious market is that it's another wired or near-wired access method to get bits to your house, besides the Phone Companies and cable modems, which means it increases competition for the phone business as well as data business. Power companies already have a certain amount of potential simply from owning right-of-way, though sometimes the phone companies own the poles, and state Public Utility Commission regulators often create all kinds of strange rulings about who can do what with the shared assets (a problem cable tv companies have had, especially when they want to sell bandwidth on the fibers they run in shared right-of-way.)

Re:February is old news - what's happened since th (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479225)

The article's from February. Here's the January Slashdot Discussion. Has anything new happened?

No, same old crap. The only difference here is that Timothy read "American Radio Relay League", didn't know that that means "ham radio", and thought it was someone new complaining.

In My day... (2, Funny)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479048)

We had to make HF frequencies by hand! In the Snow! Uphill both ways!

Re:In My day... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479170)

"We had to make HF frequencies by hand! In the Snow! Uphill both ways!"

That should have read:

Back in my day, we had to make HF signals by building our own rigs, by HAND! We had to trek thirty miles uphill in the snow to the local Radio Shack or Sears store to buy the kit, and when they ditn't have all of the diodes, capacitors, and crystal kits we needed we had to trek back three weeks later when their shipment came in, carrying it all home in the snow! When we finally got everything, we had to solder it all together, with bad, carcinogenic lead-based solder, making sure EACH and EVERY SOLDER point was perfect. We had to wire them in to the power system and after the first components blew, trek back to the electronics store to buy more components and rent an oscilloscope to figure out what went wrong. Then fix the radio, retest, trek back to return the 'scope, and trek back home uphill in the snow to finally use the rig.

Re:In My day... (1)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480065)

we had to solder it all together, with bad, carcinogenic lead-based solder, making sure EACH and EVERY SOLDER point was perfect.

An old-timer friend of mine tells the story of someone he knew who was troubleshooting a Heathkit Color Television that a friend had just assembled. It turned out that this fellow had decided to be slick, and instead of regular solder, he had used 'liquid steel' (basically a metallic looking epoxy cement that is non-conductive) to do the soldering, instead of a soldering iron and regular metal solder. The guy troubleshooting the TV took a long time to figure it out, because 'liquid steel' looks like an excellent soldering joint. . .

Anyway, enough actual hardware-geek banter. This is Slashdot. Back to arguing about politics and legal stuff.

Re:In My day... (2, Funny)

kps (43692) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480771)

You could buy diodes? You had it easy! We had to make our own. The first one was easy enough, but catching the cat the second time....

BPL is the wrong technology at the wrong time (4, Interesting)

drwho (4190) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479115)

Thanks, Slashdot, for this article. One the cat is out of the bag, he won't go back in...so it's important that BPL gets ripped out when it fails (which it will...oh yes we have WAYS of making it fail. For instance, all BPL ISPs will be filtered at my firewall. And I am a licensed amateur, and will file an endless stream of takedown complaints to the FCC, as hams ARE the primary users of the bands in question). So, doing whatever it takes to delay any implementation, on a local level, is appropriate. It would be a good idea for municipalities to ban it.

Re:BPL is the wrong technology at the wrong time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479506)

Dork...

why dont they just (2, Interesting)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479167)

shield the cable (and obviously earth the shield)

that way nothing gets in, nothing gets out - everybody wins (exceept those who pay for the cable)

Re:why dont they just (2, Informative)

TWX (665546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479186)

Because of cost. They're trying to use existing installations to do this, specifically avoiding running new wire. If they were going to install shielded cable, they may as well just put in coaxial or fiber.

As far as shielding power cables though, they don't do it because it's not effective, the shielding breaks down due to the elements, it's harder to diagnose a problem with the power grid, and probably a whole slew of other things.

Re:why dont they just (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479368)

As far as shielding power cables though, they don't do it because it's not effective, the shielding breaks down due to the elements, it's harder to diagnose a problem with the power grid, and probably
a whole slew of other things.
Yeah, like change the impedance of the line, changing its carrying capacity and changing the power factor seen by the rest of the grid.

Aside from the fact that previous installations aren't shielded, even shielding new installs would be far more difficult/expensive than just running a dedicated line in parallel.

Re:why dont they just (1)

modge (773928) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479541)

correct me if im wrong - I my analogue electronics isn't very good - but wouldn't 60Hz (we use 50 in eurpope) suddenly cease to be the magic frequency for get the most out of your power lines?

The idea of BPL in it's current form is disgusting (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479193)

There is only a fairly small frequency band in existence that can be used for inexpensive worldwide communication, and that is HF. The reason are more or less predictable Ionosphere layers that reflect radiowaves.

Under good conditions, you can transmit halfway across the world, with just 1-5 Watts of transmission power. The Amateur Radio community knows this as "QRP" operation, and it is quite popular. So, yes, even small amounts of HF noise will go a long way to interfere with shortwave communication.

20 years ago a sizable amount of communication was still being done by shortwave (HF) radio, and anybody thinking about poisioning large chunks of HF spectrum would've been declared a raving lunatic. Every kHz of HF spectrum was (and still is) a prized posession. Look up any frequency book from the 80's and you'll see that there wasn't a Hertz of HF spectrum unallocated, and it was (and still is) tightly controlled by international agreements. For large Radio stations (BBC, VOA), it is still the only way to connect to people in dictatorships and less advanced countries.

Today, most commercial and military communication in the US has moved to satellite; Only smaller services (in the west), third world countries, radio stations and HAM radio operators use HF. Of course, why would large power companies care about other countries or the BBC news ?

The HF spectrum is still the most valuable piece of electromagentic real estate there is in the World. Purposefully injecting additional noise into the band for no other reason than to save a few bucks is a terrible mistake and shows ignorance and recklessness on a staggering level.

Re:The idea of BPL in it's current form is disgust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9480114)

Only smaller services (in the west), third world countries, radio stations and HAM radio operators use HF.

HF is still used a lot more than that. There are significant parts of the globe that are unreachable by geosynchronous satellites.

Pretty well written, until I got to "Purposefully injecting additional noise into the band for no other reason than to save a few bucks is a terrible mistake and shows ignorance and recklessness on a staggering level." Next time try to finish cleanly, without exaggeration.

I wish all you ham operators would shut up... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479221)

all three of you.

Very Important Thing (4, Informative)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479237)

A very important yet often overlooked thing to keep in mind while thinking about "broadband over power lines," as I have already written countless times [slashdot.org] with little effect, is the very fact that it all has started as a scam. The idea has been introduced by Luke Stewart, a scam artist who has promised more than billion gigabits per second (sic) with his "Media Fusion" snake oil.

The idea of sending information via the electrical grid, rather than over telephone copper or fiber-optic cable, has been around for decades. The field, known as power line communications, or PLC, is pockmarked with wasted investments and technical failures. Only within the past few months have several companies begun to deploy limited PLC ventures.

[...] Stewart, however, had a much grander vision, based on what he considered to be a dramatic discovery: Data could hitch a ride on the magnetic field created by electric currents running through power line wires. By piggybacking on this magnetic field, instead of on the electricity itself, he could obtain almost limitless speeds of transmission.

[...] Media Fusion promised to deliver, within two years, bandwidth at speeds thousands of times faster than what's possible with fiber. Stewart was company chair, while the board of directors included government heavyweights such as former Speaker of the House Robert Livingston; Terry McAullife, a leading Democratic fund-raiser and close friend of then-President Clinton; and Admiral James Carey, former chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. The firm's Web site declared that the ASCM technology would "impact every facet of our life," and the computing power of the network would be "exponentially more powerful than any supercomputer to date." [emphasis added]

This scam and those billions gigabits per second was the only reason why "broadband over power lines" has been ever considered in the first place. See these links [slashdot.org] for sources and much more informative details and background.

Link (4, Informative)

Pan T. Hose (707794) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479277)

I have found a direct link to the article I was quoting [slashdot.org] in my previous post, The Electric Kool-Aid Bandwidth Test [wired.com] by Evan Ratliff. It is long but very interesting and enlightening. True eye opener. Enjoy.

Re:Very Important Thing (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479317)

The fatal problem is the wire, if the power company connects those BPL devices with COAX CABLE
or Optical Fiber, their bandwidth increases and interference GOES AWAY. The reason this solution has not been adopted is 100% political, like the rest of this mess.

The facts:

The problem with BPL *is the wire part*

* The wire severely limits broadband throughput.
* The wire acts like an antenna, disrupting other services.
* The wire reduces the range between repeaters, killing economy of service.
* The wire acts like an open door, letting interference into BPL.

Q: Why not do it without the wire?
A: Because the only justification the power companies have for joining the internet services market is that they have those wires going everywhere.

So that same wire that opens the door for the power companies to get into internet, hangs around their necks like an albatross with respect to their competitors (if and when) there is a major rollout.

It's no secret that some major political forces have a vested interest in seeing the power companies wrapped up in this issue, but as you can see, to date, the power companies have not been so interested.

They are wondering - who is going to pay for this when the present day options (WiFi, DSL, cable) do it cheaper?

Investment in BPL is a bet that the money is out there
somewhere (like the NYSERDA public funds in this example) to pay for an inferior service with inherent problems, and that the politicians and lawyers will be able to create an atmosphere where there will be profit in it.

They will succeed over the figurative "dead bodies" of many existing HF frequency user services, Sumner and group only being the first along the way. Then there are the state regulators PUC's, and then the competition from the
incumbents. Even without "the wire", that'd be tough.

These new BPL chips are supercomputers like the world has never seen. But they get hooked to this rusty wire and that reduces them to a pair of Campbell's soup cans.

Even DSL phone lines are interference cancelling, there are always 2 twisted wires, not true of power lines - that's the whole problem.

The day companies like Ambient (ABTG) announce a better way of connecting those BPL devices is the day everyone can breath freely and enjoy the third broadband path.

Until then, expect more of this:

bigcharts.marketwatch.com/javachart/ja..

Even if you get to market late, you need to have the goods.

The BPL broadband existed in a lab somewhere, and carefully manicured small scale tests. In practice the broadband flies off the power wire like uzi fire, going everywhere except the intended destination. Notches eating up the broadband.

To succeed, BPL needs immediate deployment, at least 1000 warehouses of BPL equipment to bolt on those powerlines and grab some market share. This needs to happen now, not next month or next year and needs to happen some place where there is a mass number of customers to grab from the incumbents, not some place like Wyoming where all that gear gets used up going to one ranch.

But BPL will be forever chasing interference problems.

The problems are caused by that bare single wire, flapping in the breeze. Until they replace it, BPL deployment comes to a GRINDING halt - and no critical mass.

So the hams sniffed BPL out and now cause some manner of inconvenience, so sad. Start rolling that stuff out the way it is now, in mass, and they can deal with the military,
local goverments, and lawyers - their agenda won't include fussing around on the chat boards, believe it.

Attempts at sweeping this under the rug (read this NOTCHING) just won't do it.

Re:Very Important Thing (2, Interesting)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480089)

Because the only justification the power companies have for joining the internet services market is that they have those wires going everywhere.

How can anybody reasonable claim this to be true?

What the power companies have that should be invaluable in joining the internet services market is a right-of-way for cables. They should be able to run a strand or fifty of coax on the same poles they run AC power across. It means additional wires on the pole, but the poles are in place, wires are already routed, etc.

Why do they need to route it on the same wires?

Re:Very Important Thing (3, Informative)

EssTiDee (784920) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479666)

In case anyone is extra curious here, Luke Stewart and his "Media Fusion" idea have gone belly up since then; http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/stories/2004/03/ 22/story5.html Company is defunct, and he is under federal indictment for money laundering and wire fraud. Still swears his idea will work though :-P

Re:Very Important Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9480133)

If it's just a scam, you have nothing to fear. Sure a few place might have be bad for HF for a year, but that's nothing new. A scam doesn't last, doesn't grow. I've seen no sign this is a real threat.

I still don't even understand how it works enough to figure out for myself how it might interfere. The ARRL article once again doesn't specify how it works. Is the carrier VHF or HF? I still don't even know that. (Yes I understand you can't keep a signal inside a powerline, even the 60 Hz leaks like crazy)

I'm effected by RF noise in many bands, so I understand the problem. I'd just like to hear something other than the sky is falling.

Even crazy pro-corp republicans wont kill HF coms. The military wont let them.

Is this even English? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479444)

"These broadband signals, while providing Internet access to remote communities that would normally not be able to receive broadband, and causing enormous interference to the radio spectrum."

Nice work.

Interference (-1, Troll)

Cinematique (167333) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479518)

Why are amature radio bands so special? I hope I don't piss any hams off, but what's the point in trying to fling your voice clear across the world when you could use the 'Net? Why can't we have another competitor to cable/DSL?

Please, someone help me out on this one. I really want to know the modern reasoning and necessity of the amature radio band.

*A

Re:Interference (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479661)

When natural/man made/terrorist disasters happen most if not ALL centralized communication systems fall apart rather rapidly. Amateur radio is the only "fail safe" communications medium when all others fail. Look at 9/11 for example, the red cross depended on many amateur radio volunteers to pass traffic because the cell phone system was rendered useless and the public safety radios were useless because the depend on a centralized communications system. When I talk on HF for example, I don't have to depend on the phone company and all the infrastructure to communicate with the other person on the other end.

Plus the fact that most everyone is over looking is that BPL can be jammed with something as simple as a CB radio. And as discussed here before, the bridges use the 2.4 Ghz band are just as suseptable to jamming could drive into an area serviced by BPL and launch a DoS attack simply by transmitting. I can tell you if I had constant Internet outages caused my the legal transmissions of other licensed services, I would be bitching up a storm to the power company.

Re:Interference (1)

RadioD00d (714469) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479671)

Well, you might as well ask why people collect coins, or why people jump out of perfectly good airplanes. We do it because, to us, it's fun. I enjoy turning on the radio and not knowing who, or where, I'll talk to next. Yeah, I can IRC to any of the places to which I've talked with a lot less effort, but you can get to the top of Mt. Everest in a helicopter too.

The other side of the argument is that, when everything goes to hell in a handbasket, due to flood, hurricane, tornado, or terrorist act, the ham operator (most of 'em anyway) has emergency power to provide critically needed communications into the affected area. You say 'I'll just use my cell phone' but how effective were those on 9/11/01? Amateur radio is still a fascinating hobby, and it's still a valuabe resource for emergency communication.

BPL would kill off a hobby I and many others have a great love for. There are other more suitable methods for providing low-cost connectivity, without the side effects.

WD8JMM

Re:Interference (2, Insightful)

Alan Cox (27532) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479805)

Most of the HF bands are used for commercial purposes, some slots are allocated for limited private use (eg CB, remote control toys, 49Mhz walkie-talkies), and lots of it is used for emergency and longer ranger services where VHF/UHF simply won't do the job. This includes people like emergency services.

Amateur radio is probably more relevant now than since the 1940's. Its real reason for existance beyond the first uregulated days of "gee isnt this neat" was to provide a steady supply of wireless operators to draft in the event of a war. Its not the only reason but its a major reason it survived.

Alan

Re:Interference (1)

thirty2bit (685528) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479859)

Take 9/11. There were no land phones, no cell phones, no power, no internet in the immediate area. Cell towers that did operate were quickly overloaded anyway. Radio communication was the only means available during the emergency.

Amateur (Ham) Radio is a dying hobby, but it's still a method of emergency communication.

It's like CPR. Not everybody knows it, but if there is an emergency, you pray somebody around you does.

Re:Interference (3, Interesting)

Bishop (4500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479949)

Believe it or not but some of the best antenna and radio designs of the past 50 years have been by amature radio operators. They are also responsible for an inovative rocket payload system so that they could piggy back their sattelites behind larger commercial loads. This should be a surprise to no one. These amatures have been driven by the same motivations that has made open source software some of the best in the world: they love what they do. Amatures need dedicated radio bands so they can work in and test their desgins without interference from or to others. These dedicated bands need to all over the spectrum as each band has its own advantages and challenges. Of course not every amature radio operator is a designer. But like open source software developers, RF designers need users to provide feedback. Amature operators provide imporant feedback such as signal strength and quality, and distance between stations.

It is also nice to have public radio bands that are not controled by commercial interests, in much the same way that it is nice to have public parks. Free of commercial interests amature radio bands are free (as in beer) to use. More importantly amature radio bands can be used in new and innovative ways that commercial interests are not interested in supporting.

Unfortunately these public radio bands are not as easily accessible as public parks. Licences and tests aren't the problem. RF is fragile and proveing that you will use it responsibly is important. A big problem is, ironically, the ARRL.

The ARRL has fought so hard to protect their radio bands that they risk loseing everything. The ARRL has lost its relavence to the general public. Amature operators around the world have been extremely reluctant to change. The old amatures have always welcomed new amatures, but they haven't gone out of there way to find new amatures. There has always been a huge source of new amatures in the hacker community. The ARRL needs to do more encourage these hackers to become radio amatures.

The current structure and activities of the ARRL does not encourage new participation. Young radio hackers are not interested in DX competitions and making 10 second contacts to fill out a QSL card. Young hackers are not interested in making contact with some grumpy old guy half way around the world just to hear what ailments he has. (This is a far too common occurance.)

Young hackers are interested in making world wide, community based, digital networks. They are interesetd in freedom of speech and privacy issues. They want to use encryption. Many of the old amatures are affraid that the young hackers want to move in and change everything. This is only partly true. The hackers do want to change a few things, but they are also more then willing to work with the community. Look at groups such as Seattle Wireless. These guys are essentially rogue freebanders. The ARRL needs to modernize themselves and the FCC to turn these freebanders into licenced amatures.

If the ARRL and similar groups don't do more to encourage new participation there won't be amature radio in few decades time, because there won't be many amature radio operators left alive. The recent easing of licence and band restrictions will help, but much more needs to be done.

Re:Interference (1)

Cinematique (167333) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480870)

I guess what I'm getting at is the use of public airwaves as a playground for a very small number of people when many people could benefit from greater broadband access. How much of a chunk of the spectrum is used for hams?

And thank you for answering me. I apparently ruffled some feathers with some touchy mods.

Please mod up parent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9480137)

This is a legitimate question even if it could have asked better.

highspeed over HF (2, Interesting)

Bishop (4500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479526)

Provideing a highspeed network to a rural area is a hard problem. There are few customers to offset the operating expenses.

A local start-up was working on a highspeed network for rural areas. It used HF in a licenced band so interferance would not have been an issue. Because the system used HF one tower could cover quite a large area. The speeds were not lightning fast but were faster then modems. I believe the project goal was just a little faster then sattelite.

Unfortunately the project was killed for two reasons. The first was patents. There are some (arguably obvious) patents that cover highspeed networks over HF. The patents owners were not interested in developing the technology themselves, rather they wanted to charge exhorbitant fees to licence the patents. Given enough money this issue could have been resolved, but when coupled with the second problem project was canceled. The second problem was lack of a market.

From the start the system was designed to serve sparsely populated rural areas. This system could not compete with DSL, cable or 802.11 based systems. The bandwidth was slower, and more the system was more expensive. The setup costs were high as a client station needed a good HF transciever and antenna. The service fees were high as the base stations were designed to only handle a few customers. The system had to be heavily optimized for rural areas in order to achieve the large distances required. The optimizations were such that it could not even be scaled back to compete in the quasi-rural suburban environments. The system was expensive. While an end customer might be willing to pay $1000 to setup a station, plus $100/month for highspeed no provider was willing to take the risk when a base tower could easily cost $100k just to install.

I suspect that highspeed of power lines is going to face similar challenges and suffer the same fate. The setup costs are deffinately lower, but the system is still faced with some of the same technical problems. Long distances cause more noise, which lowers bandwidth, which reduce the number of customers on a given segment. With fewer customers there is less chance of a profit.

Re:highspeed over HF (1)

Halfbaked Plan (769830) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480104)

My ISP is Sprint, through the Sprint/Local networking. Sprint actually offers local telephone service in various markets, and they sell DSL on the service I use here. We have Sprint/Local for our phone company specifically because we're in a rural setting, and out here in the country the big bad-news telephone company the people in town have to endure isn't the operator of the telephone network.

So at least in our current setup here in a rural location, we get DSL in the country. Not that far in the country, mind you, but we're out in the boonies where there isn't even cable for Television strung.

There are often chickens on the road that I have to slow down for on my way to work. My wife sometimes encounters small herds of sheep on the same road. We're country, alright.

I'm against it... (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9479846)

...for now, and I live out in the stix and don't have broadband,and I have certainly whined about it enough, but I STILL don't want anything that will mess up the radios. No SUH. I look at my radios as my ultimate backup communications tool. The telcos can go down, the internet can go down, the TV stations off air, cells can be jammed up-and I still have communication, and it's both ways commo if I want it. And you can get information in real time, from a variety of places all over the planet, with any normal multiband receiver and a chunk of scrap wire for an antenna, Under 50$ and you're in. And it costs zero but some minimal electric power, you don't even need grid power, run it off your car battery in an emergency. Free as in beer and free as in speech, short range down the block to around the world range- what's not to like? Let them study it some more in places that are using it, I read about in scotland I think they tried it, but don't just dump it out there and "see what happens". I'll wait for my broadband with low powered wifi and a directional antenna or if someone decides to run some better cablez down the road. We don't need to trade one form of electronic human communication for another, we can have BOTH if we are smart.

Amperion && AEP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9479885)

How come AEP (an investor in Amperion) is not rolling out BPL in their service area? You would think that they would be all over something they invested in. However, they seem to be backing away from them.

If you must invest, invest in wireless.

Broadband Connecion Required (2, Interesting)

nctechboi (768827) | more than 10 years ago | (#9480051)

A bit ironic that you need a broadband connection to see the video from ARRL - isn't it. I think the ARRL and older hams are just angry about the Internet drawing people from amateur radio and are not getting the picture of how the Internet can be used to encourage more people into the hobby. ie. Repeater relays via the net, IP packet over radio, etc. Hey give up your morse code paddles and step into 2004. (It's also time to ditch the code requirement). Nathan Smith, KC8MTQ nathanmsmith.com [nathanmsmith.com]

Re:Broadband Connecion Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9480851)

YEAH! Why restore old cars, or collect antiques, or GOD FORBID use Morse code. I mean, geez, there is no way they could possibly ENJOY doing that stuff when technologically superior methods are available. Not like its a hobby or something... oh wait....

Also, code is not required for technician class, and it makes sense for HF since its an international standard.

radio receivers are generally not robust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9480100)

It seems to me that most radio receivers, e.g. analog FM receivers, are not robust. They can be affected by signals on nearby frequencies. It seems to me that they rely on very low usage of the RF spectrum. Perhaps it is time for a transition to more advanced and robust receiver technology.
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