Radio club concerned about broadband over power lines

August 27, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -Amateur radio operators raised some static this week over concerns that broadband Internet service sent through power lines in Chambersburg could interfere with other forms of radio communications.

"This RF (radio frequency) pollution will interfere with current license-holding users of the radio spectrum," said Milton Engle of Quincy, Pa., one of about a dozen members of the Cumberland Valley Amateur Radio Club who attended Monday night's Borough Council meeting.

"We need more testing to determine the extent of interference BPL will present" to other radio operations, Engle told the council.


The council on July 26 voted to hire the Shpigler Group of Nyack, N.Y., to do a feasibility study of broadband over power line technology on the borough-owned power grid. The company is scheduled to report its findings at the council's Sept. 13 meeting.

David R. Yoder, president of the amateur radio club, said broadband over power lines, which feeds digital signals onto power lines, potentially could interfere with a range of frequencies between 1.7 and 88 megahertz, including frequencies used for public safety communications and by ham radio operators.

"It would interfere with anybody using short-wave frequencies within the immediate vicinity of Chambersburg," Yoder said Thursday. That would include Chambersburg's utility and fire trucks, Pennsylvania State Police and reception of long-range broadcast services, such as the BBC, he said.

"At this point, we simply want to be part of the process and have an opportunity to review the Shpigler Group report and respond to it, publicly, before any further action is taken," Yoder wrote in a letter he gave to the council Monday.

Richard Hamsher, superintendent of the borough electric department, said at the July 26 meeting that broadband over power lines has the potential to provide wireless communications with transmitters and receivers connected to the power grid, or directly into homes and businesses with adapters fitted to electrical outlets.

The borough would not, however, become an Internet service provider and compete with private industry, Hamsher said at that meeting. The borough could act as a landlord, renting the use of the power lines to an Internet provider that would make the capital investment in equipment and technology.

"We're not going to jump into anything haphazard," Council President William McLaughlin said Monday, noting the borough is still embroiled in another dispute over radio frequencies with a local broadcasting company.

McLaughlin said the borough would consult with the Federal Communications Commission and proceed with caution before making any decisions on broadband over power lines.

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