Borough of Chambersburg to study broadband options

July 29, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council Monday night approved funding for a feasibility study to determine if the electrical outlets in residents' homes can one day become their high-speed Internet connections.

The broadband-over-power-line technology, which has been undergoing field testing in Manassas, Va., could be used to provide Internet, alarm and surveillance services to electrical customers, while giving the borough a way to do automatic meter reading, outage notification and energy management, according to Borough Manager Eric Oyer.

Chambersburg owns it electrical utility, including the power lines, over which both electrical current and information could be transmitted, Oyer said.


The Shpigler Group, a Nyack, N.Y., consulting firm, was hired to do the feasibility study and to come up with a business plan for $17,000. The study should take about a month, Oyer said.

That move does not mean the borough would be getting into the communications business, he said.

"We may end up in what they call a landlord function," Oyer told the council. If the plan is feasible, he said the borough could work with a company that would make the business investment and enter a lease agreement for use of the power grid for information transmission.

He said the relationship would be similar to that which Chambersburg has with Comcast, which rents space on borough utility poles for its cable business.

"Our core business is not the communications business," Richard Hamsher, superintendent of the electric department, said in addressing concerns that the borough could be intruding into the private sector.

"We don't want to become venture capitalists," Oyer said.

We offer wireless broadband and our view is that the trend is toward things that are wireless," said Nathan Rotz, president of Innernet Inc., a locally-owned Internet service provider. Like cellular phones, individuals and businesses will move toward wireless communications technology in the future, he said Wednesday.

"Wireless is less expensive than any other broadband out there," according to Rotz, who said his company will be interested to see what the feasibility study shows.

"We're interested in providing Internet access over whatever media or technology our customers desire," he said.

"The technology Manassas has been using is well-tested," said Hamsher. The technology can be used for wireless communications with transmitters and receivers installed in the power grid, or go directly into homes and businesses with adapters fitted to electrical outlets.

Broadband over power lines is about 10 times as fast as regular dial-up Internet service, Hamsher said.

Revenues from leasing the poles and lines would go into the electric department's fund, Oyer said. The money could be used to help rate payers or be transferred to the borough's general fund, he said.

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