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Borough Council delays decision on broadband trial

September 28, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council Monday night heard from opponents of a broadband over power line trial on its electric distribution system and borough officials said the issue will require a closer look before any decision is made.

"We have some more homework to do on our own," Borough Manager Eric Oyer said at the end of a presentation by David R. Yoder, president of the Cumberland Valley Amateur Radio Club.

Oyer said the borough will be busy through October and November working on its 2005 budget and further discussion of the proposal for providing high-speed Internet service over the power lines is unlikely to occur before that process is concluded.

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"I don't think we're in any big hurry," said Council Vice President Robert Wareham.

On Sept. 13, David Shpigler, president of the Shpigler Group of Nyack, N.Y., proposed that the borough conduct a trial of broadband over power line, or BPL, system. Shpigler was hired in July to do a feasibility study on BPL at a cost of $17,000 plus expenses.

"The presentation you heard previously perhaps overemphasized the positive," Yoder told the council, referring to Shpigler's presentation two weeks earlier.

Ham radio operators and other licensed users of the airwaves are concerned with the effect of possible radio frequency interference from BPL, Yoder said. BPL is an "unintentional radiator" that "does cause interference," he said.

Yoder, who was accompanied by about a dozen members of the amateur radio club, said the government is two years away from drafting technical standards for BPL and equipment now being manufactured is "essentially in the experimental stage."

"I was neutral on the subject of BPL, but after reviewing the technical information and the experiences of places that tried it, I think Chambersburg would be foolish to throw money at this now," Yoder said Monday before the meeting.

Penn Yan, N.Y., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Raleigh, N.C., all ended BPL trials, according to Yoder. He said Shpigler also is a partner in Electric Broadband LLC, "which happens to be co-located with the Shpigler Group and is running a failing test in Cottonwood, Ariz.," Yoder said Monday afternoon.

Yoder repeated those concerns to the council and said the cost of running a trial could be as high as $340,000.

Shpigler was present Monday, but did not comment during the meeting.

Yoder said ham radio operators are always interested in new technology, but said the borough should "wait for technological development to solve the current problems.

"I don't think we are necessarily starving for access to the Internet," Yoder said.

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