Re: ~e; Fwd: Broadband via power lines seen more feasible

From bc <>
Date Thu, 16 Jan 2003 23:18:54 -0600
In-reply-to <p05200f12ba4cebbb8c4d@[]>

  thanks Steve for the link to powerline networking. there are
  a few recurring issues with this technology, and on different
  scales, and so i googled a bit and found a few resources...

  here is a primer on basic 'home' powerline networking...

Q&A: Powerline Networking

  the first issue with networking information over 'home' power-
  lines (in-house wiring, say) is that it is an insecure network.
  i've heard this compared to broadband data-cable services,
  in which upstream and downstream connections are shared
  by neighbors, so that someone with the knowledge/tools could
  sniff internet traffic into and out of the collective net connection.

  i found two articles that directly address this security issue...

Security for Powerline Networking
A Grinch in the Power Line
  The first line of defense: password-protect your drives,3,2,1,0331,00.html

Langa Letter: Powerline Networking Comes Of Age Jan. 13, 2003

of interest is that this home powerline networking would be using
encryption for sending data over an internal network. and that the
network would extend outside the physical perimeter of a building
to the closest transformer. (which is to my knowledge a shared and
dispersed device which is communal in nature, not in front of every
house, but i could be mistaken). the electrical distribution poles i
know of have oil-canister transformers, that look like giant grey-
cans which have insulators and coils and wires sprouting from
them. if this is what powerline networks are bounded by, then i
would think that a home power connection could be shared by
a dozen houses. if someone knows for sure, please correct me.

if this were the case, cable broadband and powerline networking
share the same 'communal' access problem in that they extend
far enough out that others could enter from another part of the
shared network. although with encrypted info this is probably
safer, it still makes me wary of the idea of networking. in addition,
while wireless is used as an example of an information 'bubble'
which people outside a perimeter can access, there is a possibility
that encrypted data flowing over a powerline network could be
read in some way, from a distance, without touching the wire,
given where technology and human knowledge of EM is going.

another aspect about home powerline networking that is interesting
is that it sounds similar to DSL and telephone lines. from what i've
gathered, DSL runs over traditional phone wires (like networking
over powerlines) using a different frequency, so that one can use
a broadband computer connection and talk on the telephone at
the same time. as the articles above indicate, this is also how a
powerline network operates, by sending data over power lines.

a question arises which has to do with techno-guru George Gilder's
work with 'powerchips' (search google, also there is a review in the section which overviews the basic idea).
it relates to the idea of 'clean power' and making what might be
considered secure power networks, where there is nearly zero
downtime in the networks. also, that there are few spikes or any
kind of brownouts or disruptions in services (for businesses mainly,
like semiconductor computerchip companies, where an hour of
downtime could cost tens of millions of dollars in lost production,
or a blip/glitch could damage equipment). for those in the USA, or
at least those in the millennial West coast, is that reliable power
can be a fickle thing, due to many reasons, one of which is political
(Enron) and others which have to do with loads, weather, supply,
demand, new technologies, prices of power, et cetera. for these
many reasons it makes me wonder about using a home power
network as a computer network, and its ability to be reliable in
present-day conditions, where the price of power could fluctuate
wildly or could go out even if one has working battery/backup power.
telephone networks apparently work when the power is down/out,
because they supply their own power over the telephone lines, so
that when one picks up the phone.

maybe this is too much about powerline networking but there are
two other aspects which are also related and possibly relevant:
one being non-home powerline networks, and home networking.

i remember reading stories of non-home powerline networks over
high-voltage powerlines, those foreboding metal towers marching
through the landscape. there must be some complex infrastructural
technology which enables these vast nation-wide and international
networks to be able to adapt to new power conditions, adjusting how
much power goes where through switches and other controls. this is
in part automated through microwave transmissions to substations,
from what i've read and seen, but i also imagine the whole network
has some level of electromechanical switching similar if not much
more advanced than that of a train yard or airport control tower.

in one of the 'new economy' schemes, trading access to broadband
'data' over existing powerline networks was proposed by Enron, if
this was over powerlines themselves, or using their public rights-
of-way (the opening in the geographic plan which enables towers
to march around city and country, and distribution poles to be here
and there). i am not sure if this is called 'wheeling' or 'bundling' of
services, and if new data pipes would be laid (for fiberoptics, say)
or if this already exists, buried in trenches along these major power
highways. it is sensible for long-distances, in many ways, much like
the first trains in the USA were accompanied by telegraph poles
besides them. one going at the speed of steam, the other, light.
in this scenario, it seemed access to these very large data pipes
would become a commodity (like 'electricity' during the California
power crisis) and that was one of the future business of Enron.
another possibility is that this land is used by states or regions or
is rented from utilities or to utilities for upkeep of this 
this is a patchwork of guesses, having heard a few bits and pieces..

the difference between 'home' powerline networking and 'non-home'
or regional powerline networks, it seems, is that the former may have
many liabilities of the latter (if the power goes out) while the latter 
have advantages of rights-of-way and an installed long-distance base.

one thing i've watched with interest is how the 'outlets' in new housing
are beginning to change, like those in corporations, to allow for high-
speed data connections with plug and jack connections into a wall
or floor outlet. such that one can have cable access or dsl or ethernet
networks via plug-and-play, where wires are behind a wall and create
a physical second-network in a home, if it is for a stereo/audio system,
for security/surveillance systems, for computer networking internally,
or externally, if it is fiberoptics or co-axial cable. from an 
point of view, the current cord & plug and wall-outlet system is rather
frustrating as cords will eventually be strung from here to there. yet,
as power is no-time-in-coming going to be wireless, it will likely 
as a basic infrastructure in all housing, but in need of a major 
the earlier electrical systems, when first installed, were on the 
of buildings and some very old historic structures may still have the
ceramic 'knob and tube' wiring systems, with almost exposed wires
(insulated by some kind of fabric, it seemed), running along ceilings
almost like a set of electrical distribution wires with the cross-arm 

i forget where i saw it, but some new housing had so many outlets
along its perimeter of its room, for power and telephones, that at a
certain point there is too much infrastructure for the peripherals. and
it is for this reason that adding data networking to the existing home
powerline system would seem to add more chaos to an already over-
loaded system. and at times, unreliant system. it may be that now is
a time when there will be a standards shakeout as cities and states
and regions choose to go with certain systems, or if investments are
put into certain cities and areas by private companies or utilities or
media companies or internet access companies, and whatever works
best for each place will succeed, as there are so many options, and
networking will be a cornucopia experience, or if a basic, integrated
and universal secure broadband infrastructure will be developed on
common standards, so that each market doesn't require different plugs
and adapters (as with powerline networks in various countries and,
if one wants to use their local electrical gear elsewhere, needs to
go get an adapter kit. so too with TV, radio, and telephony it seems).

in this case planning on local to state, interstate, national, and 
national levels for interoperable broadband networking could become
one of the great initiatives to move things into the next stage, and it
may take a clear large-scale policy before new standards can arrive.

just a guess...

(just remembered, they have a thing in town here called 'Parade of
Homes' where they show off building houses, and often have an ideal
or test house, a type of house of the future, with all the amenities. in
this case, it was a house with such broadband wiring behind the walls
and the outlets. the house listed for $500,000.00 US (half a million)
while the new networking itself added 10-20,000 to the actual cost.
so the argument against hardwiring new networks in new buildings
may not be the same as dealing with existing building stocks. over
a long enough period of time, it is conceivable that a new 'type' of
house, with networking built-in, might arise as a standard, much as
electrification had houses with gas lighting first transform over to
electrical lighting, then, eventually, electricity was part of the 
of a new house/building. so too with data networking, and possibly
even various ways of access and various mediums (line, satellite)..)

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