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Wireless Networking Hardware

Hams Complain about Powerline Broadband 597

dwm writes "Think broadband over power lines (BPL) would be wonderful? There might be some collateral damage. The American Radio Relay League (your friendly neighborhood ham radio operators) have documented dramatic HF radio interference in areas where BPL is being tested (Check out the video of actual interference)."
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Hams Complain about Powerline Broadband

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  • by CoyoteGuy ( 524946 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @07:56PM (#6651305)

    That is one of the best ways to slashdot a site!! haha Very good technique grasshopper, but you are no match for my slashdot skill!!!
  • Ham radio users (Score:4, Interesting)

    by trippinonbsd ( 689462 ) <samchill@ g m a> on Friday August 08, 2003 @07:59PM (#6651332) Homepage
    How many people still rely on ham radio? Why havent they moved over to something a little more modern? Does ham radio have any advantages over current technology?
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mrjive ( 169376 )
      It's more of a hobby than a necessity
      • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Goody ( 23843 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:32PM (#6651944) Journal
        It's more of a hobby than a necessity

        Is broadband pr0n a necessity ? Don't answer that :-)

        Ham radio may just be a hobby, but it is an important one. We provide emergency communications when celular, telco, and power are dead. It promotes international goodwill. It allows many people to learn RF engineering and become great engineers. For the nerds, you can play with high power RF, pass data, send video, bounce signals off the moon, use sattelites, and much more....

        • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:41PM (#6652002) Homepage Journal
          "Is broadband pr0n a necessity ?"

          Well it did take the wind out of her "I'm withholding sex from you" threats. Come to think of it, it might have caused some of those too...
        • Ham radio may just be a hobby, but it is an important one. We provide emergency communications when celular, telco, and power are dead. It promotes international goodwill. It allows many people to learn RF engineering and become great engineers. For the nerds, you can play with high power RF, pass data, send video, bounce signals off the moon, use sattelites, and much more....

          You are a voice from the past. For the US Government to increase the effectiveness of the DMCA, they must have full control over c

      • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

        by Eosha ( 242724 ) <> on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:55PM (#6652087) Homepage
        "It's more of a hobby than a necessity"

        As a strike team leader for a mountain search and rescue team, I'll tell you that without HAM radio, our job would be just plain impossible in many situations. There simply is no other option currently in existence. HAM radio is not only a hobby, but in my line of work it's a critical life-support resource, more so than any other technology we use (except maybe a flashlight). Tell the thousands of people whose lives have been saved through S&R or any of the other emergency situations that depend on HAM capabilities that it's not really a necessity.

        • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

          by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Saturday August 09, 2003 @12:38AM (#6652819) Journal
          HAM radio is not only a hobby, but in my line of work it's a critical life-support resource, more so than any other technology we use (except maybe a flashlight). Tell the thousands of people whose lives have been saved through S&R or any of the other emergency situations that depend on HAM capabilities that it's not really a necessity.

          I have to second this. On a class camping trip a few years back we were at a hike-in campground along the coast in a remote part of California (yes, there are still some remote parts of California). One morning while boiling water for some coffee one of the guys on the trip accidentally overturned the pot, drenching himself with boiling water. Needles to say, he received some extremely bad burns from this. We were out of cell range, no phones within 15-20 miles, and no vehicles with us. The scope of the burns was way beyond anything we could treat with the first aid equipment we had on hand. Fortunately, one of the people on the trip was an amateur HAM radio operator and had brought his portable equipment along. Unable to contact anyone nearby, he was able to contact an operator in Hawaii, who then called the police and rescue people in our vicinity, who were then able to send a truck to pick him up in just over an hour. The HAM radio probably saved this guy's life - though yes, if we had had a satellite phone along it might have done the trick (but then it might not have - after using GPS, which tends to be extremely fickle in wooded areas, I'm not at all certain that it would have worked anyway). HAM provides a long-range method of communications that we really don't have a higher-tech replacement for at this point.

      • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Gonarat ( 177568 ) * on Friday August 08, 2003 @10:26PM (#6652239)

        Wait until there is a natural (or man made) disaster in your area and comunications are knocked out. No phone, internet, or power. Ham radio can be the only way to communicate out of an area. Modern communications are great, but there are times when good old ham radio is needed, and is the only way to communicate. So, yes, it is just a hobby -- at least until that tornado, earthquake, hurricane, etc. comes...

        DE WB3IZT

        • Re:Ham radio users (Score:3, Informative)

          by emtboy9 ( 99534 )
          give ya a real good example of this... this past winter most of North Carolina was covered in snow or several inches of hard packed ice. Millions of people were without power and heat for as much as 3 weeks or so (we had no power at my house for 17 days).

          In fact, the problems with the ice were so bad that none of the localities around had comms either. All their fancy trunked systems failed because of towers coming down, repeaters losing power and running their backups down, etc etc.

          The local ARES group
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

      by Directrix1 ( 157787 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:02PM (#6651353)
      It can go around the world without the need of a network. That is all.
      • Re:Ham radio users (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dj2fast ( 564691 )
        I am a rather new ham radio operator, and I cannot believe the way the slashdot community is responding to this. With even a quick evaluation it should be clear that the benefits of amateur radio are more important than bpl. To me, the primary difference is that ham radio can be a challenge, and the internet is simple point and click. Try being 50 miles from a Utility plug, with a 8w 6meter radio. and have fantasitic comunications with people all over the states. try doing that with the internet. And you wi
        • I was not devaluing ham radio usage. I think ham radios are fascinating, but the only thing it can do that the internet cannot is provide long distance communication without the need of a network. Am I wrong?
    • How many people still rely on ham radio? Why havent they moved over to something a little more modern? Does ham radio have any advantages over current technology?

      Other than it beinng completely free and open for anyone to use regardless of how much money they have? Ham radio is the one communications medium where everyone is on equal footing. Well, except for those old farking hams with their advanced licenses who think they are farking god because they can do morse code and you're stuck with a god dam

      • by calebb ( 685461 ) * on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:34PM (#6651593) Homepage Journal
        I'm N7ZTT []. I can never get my extra class license now that they lowered the morse code test to 5wpm - the advanced class (which no longer exists) is my only proof that I can transmit data by hand at ~10 baud (yes, faster than some early modems! 13wpm = ~10 baud)

        If you follow that link, you'll see I earned my advanced class in 1993; I received my first license in ~1991. But I'm not an old fark, I was homeschooled & did this for part of my curriculum. I'm only 23 :-)

        I'll make another post in a few minutes that won't be a brag thread. It's actually sorta sad to see Ham radio fading out. You can do everything and more on the internet than you can on amateur radio. Of course, if we had wide-scale power outages & the sun was spewing crud at our atmosphere, morse code could potentially be the only way to quickly send information to other countries. Due to the nature of morse code, it can be deciphered even with a very low S/N ratio.

        Anyway, I'll make a more intelligent post soon:
        • I'll call you on that :) FCC abolished the sending test how long ago? Pre-1993, at any that's when my Advanced license dates from. You can still receive at 13WPM though (and the test was kinda weak in my opinion...the examiners were amazed at five minutes of solid copy. A one-minute requirement strikes me as barely workable). Get your extra. And hang onto your CSCE. I still have all of mine around here somewhere. As far as all these chumps complaining about hams and their "private playground"--
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ForestGrump ( 644805 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:17PM (#6651471) Homepage Journal
      Being a ham myself...
      Ever go camping and think..
      "I'll bring my cell phone and if an emergency happens, I can call for help."

      Well welcome to the world of "modern technology". Cell phones are great. I admit it. My mother can find me pratically any place, anywhere. Car breaks down in the middle of the highway, I can call AAA for a tow truck. Etc.

      However, cell phones magically don't work when there is no network.

      So if you went camping in the mountains, or your on a remote strip of road and there is no cell network, GOOD LUCK!
      A ham radio, not being network dependent, you can put out a call for help (and hope that someone is listening on the other end.) Atleast with a HAM, your chances of finding help infinately higher.

      Now what else can ham radios do?
      -Ham radios have great range. using something like 0.5 watts of power, I can talk to a friend a mile away. (go to same high school) Using 5 watts of power (typical for a hand heald), I can talk to someone else 10-15 miles away without trouble.

      Also, I can drive around in a car, talk to someone when I'm driving to and from work without running a fatty cell phone bill.

      So yes. I, being a HAM op, have moved to something more modern (cell phone), however, I still prefer to use the ham in the car (saves cell phone mins).

      HOpe this post helps.
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tsu Dho Nimh ( 663417 ) <> on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:20PM (#6651498)
      "Does ham radio have any advantages over current technology?"

      Yes. It is a distributed network of independent nodes, most of which have generators and battery backups, whose primary reason for existing is for emergency communications. In case of massive disruption of power and other transmissions ... they can keep broadcasting. It's low-tech, cheap, and easy. Can even be mobile. And in the intervals between emergencies, you can chat.

      After the big Mexico City earthquake, all the microwave towers had to be realigned, the phones were out until lines and power to switching equipment could be restored, and none of the TV stations could reach their satellites - one TV building collapsed. For the critical first few hours, the hams in Mexico City (civilian, military and diplomatic nodes) were the sole source of contact between the city and the rest of the world ... much of it through New Zealand hams who then relayed the information to North America because of an odd bounce in the transmissions.

      After things settled down a bit, I spent hours at a local tech college's ham setup with other bilingual persons, recieving and transcribing "we're OK" messages, while other students relayed the messages to the closest ham station they could reach that might be able to get the message through. On the Mexican end, mobile ham units were relaying messages, neighborhood by neighborhood. (most of those neighborhoods don't have running water, let alone cable for boradband).

    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CycleMan ( 638982 )
      Ham Radio is current technology, and is useful for far more than just old (or young) fogeys typing in Morse code. When you have broadband access on the moon and on the International Space Station, please let me know.

      Ham Radio does not get spammed, does not receive DDOS attacks, was instrumental in coordinating rescue volunteers at the World Trade Center after 9/11, is Internet-compatible (google for IRLP), doesn't have to cost a penny after you buy your radio, and Ham operators are not being sued by SCO o

      • I took a ham class in 1992 that had some nice equipment: We had a couple AT computers (286's I believe) that were capable of logging on to 'Ham BBS's' I had an account & we could send email around the world via FidoNet. I also downloaded this old game called "Welltris" via (Amtor I think) - it's like tetris, but in a well. It was definitely not open-source - so there you go, warez at 120 baud. *groan*
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_argent ( 28326 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:22PM (#6651510) Homepage
      I realize you are trolling....
      But I'll bite. Recently here in NE Ohio, we were hit by some pretty bad storms that caused some pretty destructive flash flooding. Hams reporting weather conditions and flood reports over the SKYWARN system were able to get realtime info to both the national weather service and to the local Red Cross branch so that they could get shelters set up in trouble areas before they were needed. In particular, an apartment complex had two of their buildings cut off when the little 12" stream that ran in front of their building rose to 12 feet. This also knocked out power to that area, so we had roughly 100+ people isolated (the only way out was a good 40 min hike though some rough terrain even if it hadn't been pouring down rain for 8 hours already) on the other side of a now major river. Two ham's (sorry guys, forget your calls) hopped in a 4WD vehicle and went there and did an onsite assesment even before the already overtaxed police showed up on site. That is what ham radio is really set up for. The band allocation that we get to play with is meant for emergency communications. Sure, we use it for rag chews mostly, but when the crap hits the fan, I'm glad I have a 2M HT that can get me communications when I need it. The major trouble with the BPL thing is that it already creates interference on the bands, and they lobbiests want to increase the wattage they push, which will worsen the situation exponentially.
      And besides, what good will a cell phone do if your towers go down like they did when the WTC fell? Ham radio had comms flowing in and out of ground zero in under 3 hours then.
      Ham radio still fills a very vital role in todays world when a disaster strikes.

      73 KC8SNS
    • Why should they have to "move over to something a little more modern"? Is broadband over power lines so critical a need that the Hammers have to lose their hobbies and see their thousands of dollars of radio equipment turned into doorstops and paperweights?

      There are existing ways of getting broadband to almost anyone, from cable to DSL to satellite access. The few places that are too remote for any of this may benefit from broadband over power lines, since population density would be low enough that the

    • If you are ever in a disaster, you will thank God for HAMS.
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nonillion ( 266505 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:41PM (#6651629)
      When the Internet and your cell phone go down the only thing left is Ham Radio. The power companys dream of providing internet access is going to do nothing but DEVISTATE the HF bands with RF pollution. Hams are not the only ones using the HF bands, the military, broadcasters and others have alot to be concernd about. Not to mention that you WILL be able to sniff packets since a great deal of the energy WILL radiate (how is the DMCA going to be enforced? ban all radios??). Power lines were built to one thing and one thing only, deliver power not deliver broad band internet services. Ham radio is still very much alive and kicking, I get on HF all the time and there is too much RF pollution there already (consumer electronics e.g. TVs, DSL modems, hubs, switches, computers etc).
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Informative)

      by suwain_2 ( 260792 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:55PM (#6651723) Journal
      That's really naive. Why do we still rely on cars? They're over 100 years old; haven't we moved to something more modern?

      To suggest that ham radio hasn't evolved is completely ignorant. Modern ham radios sport LCDs, top-quality DSP filters to pull out signals you might not otherwise here, advanced speech compression, etc. Modern repeaters are Internet-linked; a local repeater might be linked with one in a foreign country over the Internet. It's hardly the radio Marconi knew.

      Futhermore, hams are constantly coming up with new ideas. 'Back in the day,' it was a ham who invented cordless phones. (Which eventually evolved into cell phones.) Hams are constantly innovating; while some hams love nothing more than Morse code on an 'antique' radio, quite a few are also pioneering new technologies -- PSK31, for example, a remarkable digital technology usable on the HF (worldwide) bands, that uses very little bandwidth and is able to work well even with heavy interference.

      Yet another factor you overlook is the role hams play in emergency communications. A TON of hams are actively involved in emergency communications. I'm hundreds of miles from New York City; on September 12th, 2001, several local hams flew out to NYC to help with emergency communications. In a testament to how many hams help, they were turned away due to the fact that they already had too many volunteers providing emergency communications.

      I have a cell phone and a high-speed Internet connection. But what happens when there's an Earthquake, and the local phone lines (which the cell towers are connected to) and Internet lines are taken down? Hams have a history -- that lives on -- of providing emergency communications.
    • Re:Ham radio users (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stick-boy ( 73731 ) <jason.arends@gmai l . c om> on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:12PM (#6651824) Homepage
      According to this [] website, there are "736577 active Amateur licenses" as of August 8, 2003.

      Why don't they move over to something more modern? Do they have to? Maybe because of the challenge of making a contact over hundreds of miles using very low watt transcievers, or experimenting with Earth-Moon-Earth communications, or slow-scan TV. Just because they can pick up a phone and call someone the same distance away isn't the point. I can easily install windoze on a computer and make it work, but that doesn't mean I have to. I prefer a challenge, which is why I started playing with Linux and use it on most of my computers. How many of you installed Linux the first time, just for the challenge? Maybe it wasn't the easiest system to use, and people might say, "why don't you just use windoze?" I'm just trying to make the slashdot audience understand where hams are coming from, although the analogy may be bad.

      I'm torn about the BPL issue, though. I applied for and got my first ham license 2 months ago, and I got my first "rig" a couple weeks ago. I'm excited to start a new hobby, and I'm studying to upgrade to a General class license. On the other hand, BPL would allow my parents to have broadband. They live 3 miles from a small town, and currently use Wi-Fi which sometimes works. I'd like to see more people get broadband, but does it have to be at the cost of losing a hobby that's been around for 100 years?


  • by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:00PM (#6651333) Journal
    I'm sure the hams wouldn't mind so much if they realized how much free porn they could get with powerline broadband.
  • Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by Silvertre ( 472395 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:01PM (#6651343)
    ...Something tells me this site is gunna go down, so here's the text of the article:

    NEWINGTON, CT, Aug 6, 2003--ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, says Broadband over Power Line (BPL)--if widely deployed--would represent "spectrum pollution" on a level that is "difficult to imagine." Haynie reacted after seeing videotape and early data from recent ARRL field studies in four states where BPL is undergoing testing.

    "BPL is the most crucial issue facing Amateur Radio and the one that has the most devastating potential," Haynie said. In terms of interference potential on HF and low-VHF frequencies, "nothing is on the same scale as BPL."

    A form of power line carrier (PLC) technology, BPL would use existing low and medium-voltage power lines to deliver broadband services to homes and businesses. Because it uses frequencies between 2 and 80 MHz, BPL could affect HF and low-VHF amateur allocations wherever it's deployed. BPL proponents--primarily electric power utilities--already are testing BPL systems in several markets, and one reportedly is already offering the service. FCC rules already allow BPL, although industry proponents want the FCC to relax radiation limits. It's feared such a change could exacerbate BPL's interference potential.

    At the West Gulf Division Convention (Austin Summerfest 2003) August 1-2 in Austin, Texas, Haynie previewed a short video (see below) that covers highlights of a recent field tour by ARRL Lab Manager Ed Hare, W1RFI. The video, which will complement technical data ARRL is gathering and compiling, turned out to be a real eye-opener for many in the audience.

    Walt Dubose, K5YFW--assistant chairman of the ARRL High Speed Multimedia (HSMM) Working Group--said it was about what he'd expected. "But for most attending--maybe 60 percent--it was much worse than they had imagined, and for some it was a real shocker," he reported. Dubose said a few of those viewing the video simply couldn't believe that BPL actually was causing the high noise level.

    In late July, Hare traveled some 1350 miles to visit BPL trial communities in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York to take measurements over significant parts of the HF spectrum. He also took initial readings at low-VHF frequencies. Driving a specially equipped vehicle loaded with radio gear and measurement devices, Hare said he didn't need to look long or track down "a few hot spots" to find BPL interference. "The signals were all over," he said.

    "The interference found ranged from moderate to extremely strong," Hare said. The video shows the S meter of an HF transceiver holding steady in excess of S9 as the speaker emits a crackling din, which one observer described as sounding like a Geiger counter. Only the very strongest amateur signals broke through on 20 and 15 meters. Hare noted that the field strengths of the various systems all were within FCC Part 15 limits for power line carrier (PLC) devices.

    At a couple of points, the video shows noise continuing nearly unabated on 15 and 20 meters as the car moves down long streets lined with overhead wiring. Hare said the signal propagated for at least a couple of miles down one road.

    "Signals would have been much stronger using a gain antenna," he observed. Hare's vehicle carried a roof-mounted, horizontally polarized Buddi-Pole antenna--a loaded dipole.

    Each BPL system exhibited a unique sound depending upon the modulation scheme it used, and Hare said he was able to distinguish three types during his recent tour. While in most cases, the signal sounded like static or pulse noise, in one city, it resembled sort of interference a computer monitor or similar device might generate, with warbling "birdies" blanketing the bands at closely spaced intervals. "Naturally, overhead wiring was the worst," Hare said. BPL signals continued to be audible in neighborhoods with underground electrical utility wiring, although it was somewhat attenuated.

    The ARRL already has filed a 120-page package of text and technical exhibits
  • Mirror of video (Score:3, Informative)

    by caluml ( 551744 ) <slashdot&spamgoeshere,calum,org> on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:02PM (#6651351) Homepage
    I can see that video getting hammered.
    I'm grabbing a copy here []
  • by frumin ( 696489 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:04PM (#6651367) Homepage Journal
    I'm a HAM radio oprator. It bothers me that some pople don't see anyting wrong with creating interference on already allocated radio waves. What if the same companies started to interfere with WiFi bands ? How would you react ?
    • I'm not a radio geek, or lawyer, but, doesn't every device that has an FCC label on it basically say that you have to accept any interference that occurs? Therefore, if it bothered the 802.11 spectrum, we'd be irritated about it, and probably contact someone to get it changed. But, until things changed, we'd have to deal with it, either by filtering the noise, changing frequencies, etc.

      This is the same thing that the HAM operators need to do. Eventually, they'll move things to the point that someone doesn'

      • by CharlieG ( 34950 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:33PM (#6651586) Homepage
        Actually, Ham radio operators, being licensed do NOT have to accept interference! That is the diference between a "Part 15" device and a Part 97 device.

        Your 802.11 device has to accept interference, part 97 (Ham radio) or any other licensed service does not
      • I'm not a radio geek, or lawyer, but, doesn't every device that has an FCC label on it basically say that you have to accept any interference that occurs?

        Only if it is some kind of Part 15 device. The other requirement of unlicensed Part 15 devices is that they NOT cause harmful interference. The FCC wants to change that rule. Just wait until the military finds out they have no HF comms because the base in located in a town with BPL. Yep, S9 noise over the WHOLE HF spectrum. It will destroy a natural re
      • by ChuckleBug ( 5201 ) * on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:34PM (#6651596) Journal
        I'm not a radio geek, or lawyer, but, doesn't every device that has an FCC label on it basically say that you have to accept any interference that occurs? Therefore, if it bothered the 802.11 spectrum, we'd be irritated about it, and probably contact someone to get it changed. But, until things changed, we'd have to deal with it, either by filtering the noise, changing frequencies, etc.

        You can't filter this stuff. It's absolutely rock-crushing interference. The problem is that the overhead electrical wiring is a really efficient antenna.

        The other thing is, that Amateur Radio is a licensed service, which give it certain privileges, one of those being that you aren't allowed to interfere with it. You're thinking of unlicensed devices, like wireless phones, that aren't protected this way.

        Yet another thing: BPL radiates over a HUGE bandwidth. The BPL companies want to use 2 to 80 MHz. That would wipe out the entire HF band, which hams and others use to communicate long distance. It also includes 6 meter VHF (50-54 MHz). In contrast the entire HF allocation to hams is 3.36 Mhz total. Include 6m, and it's 7.36. BPL is an enormous bandwidth hog.

        This implementation of BPL would be disastrous for ham radio and anyone else using HF frequencies, like shortwave broadcasters, coast guard, government, marine, and so on.

        The idea that they could obliterate 78 MHz of spectrum should be of concern to everyone, not just hams.

        Either way, the ball is in the court of the HAM operators. Get together and start writing letters, making phone calls, etc.

        We are. BTW, ham is not an acronym.
      • by Cerlyn ( 202990 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:39PM (#6651614)

        Actually, the ball is in the opposite court. The FCC already has said that the Amateurs have the right to use their frequencies. The broadband powerline companies have to prove that they can safely do the same without disturbing other occupants.

        What is going on IIRC is that Amateur Radio operators presently have licensed permission to operate using certain modes on certain frequencies. The power companies could do power over broadband without getting licensed, but they would have to do so at lower power (less distance) and as a unlicensed operation (i.e. if any licensed operator complained, they would have to fix their problem or cease operations).

        What the power companies are trying to do is also get licensed permission, possibly on a higher basis of license than the Amateur Radio operators do. If they get a higher priority of license than the Amateur Radio operators, the Amateur Radio operators have to eat whatever the power lines put out.

        The problem is that the power distribution system presently uses unshielded cables which radiate noise everywhere. Drive around town listening to the AM band if you don't believe me. In extreme cases and with certain devices (like transformers), the power company has to be called out to fix their interfering noise. This could be seen as an excuse to avoid doing so.

        (I also seem to recall that DOCSIS cable modems skipped the ham bands to avoid interference going either way, but I do not recall which IEEE magazine and issue I have that states this; sorry.)

    • I would react in proportion to the number of users effected and the nature of the uses that are effected. Hams would lose big on both counts.
      • by RocketScientist ( 15198 ) * on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:51PM (#6652064)
        Keep that in mind next time you're flying in from europe on approach to Kennedy airport.

        All the communications that planes use all the way across the ocean is shortwave. Aeronautical mobile service. But this is only a few thousand people a day, no big deal, let 'em miss the airport?

        Maybe next time your fishing boat is out in the atlantic and you need to call the coast guard. Maritime mobile service. Wow, this might only be a dozen people a year, let 'em drown.

        Your "proportion to number of users effected" argument doesn't look so good now does it?

        Every time there's an earthquake or a hurricane in the western hemisphere, I get a little email from the FCC via the ARRL telling me I can't use a specific set of frequencies because they're being used for emergency health and welfare traffic. Usually this is the non-urgent stuff, like "yeah, mom, me and the kids got through the earthquake OK". But that's only a few thousand folks a year. Let mom worry.

        These are things that happen. Real people who use those frequencies in ways that make their lives better. And you are advocating interfering with all of that so you can get Internet access into your house faster and cheaper. Your "nature of use" argument begins to wear here. Seriously, given the choice between more effective air-sea rescue and cheaper porn, you're choosing the porn. Unfortunately, I think the FCC's on your side. I don't think Congress is though, they've already overruled that dickmaster once.

        Admittedly, this is low power interference, but on those frequencies, it doesn't take much to send signals globally. Seriously, you can send signals with fractions of a watt in the right conditions and get good readable copy on the other side of the world. This interference level would pretty much devastate those frequencies worldwide.

    • I thought it would be perfectly legal to inferfere with WiFi bands, given their in the 2.4 ghz range for microwaves and such.
    • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwater@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:42PM (#6651634) Homepage
      I'm a HAM radio oprator. It bothers me that some pople don't see anyting wrong with creating interference on already allocated radio waves. What if the same companies started to interfere with WiFi bands ? How would you react ?
      Many folks on /. cheerfully support music & video piracy, copyright infringement, and outright theft of other peoples IP.

      Why should they feel different about the window of the electromagnetic spectrum you are legally entitled to use?
  • Movie Mirror (Score:2, Informative)

    by MrBiiggy ( 458829 ) *
    The movie site is pretty slow, so I mirrored it: BPL_Trial-small.mpg []
  • The area of concern (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Shaklee39 ( 694496 )
    by the amateur radio community is that this internet signal is transmitted through the electrical lines at frequencies from 2Mhz to 80Mhz - 80 through 6 meters. Studies have shown that, at the power levels suggested by the power companies along with the transmission lines acting like very large antennas, the typical amateur operator with have an estimated 33.7db to 65.4db of additional ambient noise to contend with, and would obviously ruin ham radio.
  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <nacturation&gmail,com> on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:06PM (#6651385) Journal
    Would it be a huge problem for Slashdot to download the video first and then put up a bittorrent link for the file? Really -- any video link posted in a story immediately goes down due to mega-traffic.

    • Would it be a huge problem for Slashdot to download the video first and then put up a bittorrent link for the file? Really -- any video link posted in a story immediately goes down due to mega-traffic.

      That would require the Slashdot editors to do more work, and that isn't going to happen. Beg the submittors, but most of them don't care unless it's their site anyway.
    • Well, it would be possible. However, it would cost VA, Taco, and crew the bandwidth, which they already bitch about spending on people who don't subscribe. So, in conclusion, no Slashdot will not host a bittorrent tracker, or files to prevent slashdotting.

  • But.. but... why HAM and antenna... shouldn't HAM go with the icon of the previous story?
  • Well yes. If this BPL stuff is causing harmful interference, I will not 100% be for the use of it - Partly because I am a ham op myself.

    That said, BPL does seem like a promising technology. This way, the electrical utlity can also sell internet, allowing the consumer to benefit from market competition.

    For me, I see HAM radio's biggest benefit to society being when disasters strike and nothing works (phone, cell phone, etc) HAM ops are able to get communication going and assist emergency response efforts
    • I've heard of this interference before, and some people have made claims that the radio interference from BPL can travel hundreds of miles.

      So yes, there's still a pretty good chance of interference if these claims are substantiated.
    • I don't want to sound troll. But this thing (ethernet over power lines) has been freaking out ham radio operators all over the world for quite some time. Look for example here [] []. And based on the law "if the shit can happen it certainly will" this will bring EMI problems to all equipment that is connected to or in the vicinty of the jack in the wall. Your TVs your stereos your computers etc.

      Besides have anybody of had to deal with power companies? Do you really want THEM to provide your int

  • The moment that a script kiddie releases an exploit that takes advantage of the combination (broadband over power line).

    I am sure it will bring a new meaning to the flying toasters...
    • The moment that a script kiddie releases an exploit that takes advantage of the combination (broadband over power line).

      I am sure it will bring a new meaning to the flying toasters...

      You can tell when this happens when you pull your toast out of the toaster in the morning and you see:
      burnt into the bread.
  • Perhaps this topic image [] would have been appropriate?
  • Cars interfere with horse drawn buggies on the road. Technology marches on.

  • BPL is a dead end (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CausticWindow ( 632215 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:30PM (#6651577)

    Yes, broadband over powerlines has proven to be a technological dead end. It's been tested over here for several years, and it's just not worth it compared to already installed adsl or cable.

    The power companies is doing one thing right though, with every new long span high voltage line they're laying, they're twirling fiber with the lines. That's the future. A fiber channel into each and every home.

  • The major reason that broadband over powerlines is a good idea is because the power companies have comprehensive right-of-way for their cables, right to your door. They also do not have much incentive not to sell it to you, like the local phone and cable monopolies, the first of which does not really see how broadband relates to their business, and the second who thinks broadband is a good way to sell you more digital media content. If power companies could leverage their access, they could make some mone
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @08:44PM (#6651643) Homepage
    Have the proponents of BPL considered that it may be a violation of international treaties governing the use and allocation of the RF spectrum? If I want to put an HF transmitter on the air, I must obtain a license from my country's radio administration, who in turn is required to follow international treaties that say what frequencies and emission types are available for specific classes of users. There are bands reserved for broadcasting, ships, aircraft, amateur radio, etc.
  • by KC7GR ( 473279 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:11PM (#6651813) Homepage Journal
    The bottom line is that BPL's harmful effects ARE NOT limited to ham frequencies. There's a bunch of other services, both commercial and government, using HF from 2-30MHz.

    Just as a few examples: Aeronautical HF, [] NOAA RadioFAX [] over HF, NOAA storm warnings [] broadcast by SITOR [] over HF, Federal and Marine HF frequencies []... The list goes on forever.

    So, it really isn't just hams that are going to be suffering. It's EVERYONE that uses the HF spectrum, including the U.S. Government!

    How long do you think said government is going to let BPL exist in its current form once critical military or Justice Department installations start noticing the very same interference that'll be driving us hams nuts?

  • by Goody ( 23843 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:17PM (#6651842) Journal
    Passing data over power lines is irresponsible from an engineering perspective. Power lines were designed to carry very very low frequencies, 60 hertz to be exact. BPL is wideband noise from 1 to 80 megahertz.

    Anyone with the slightest electical engineering knowledge knows that a signal of such high frequencies will be radiated and antenuated nearly immediately. The power lines are just awful transmission media for these frequencies. What is needed for the power cables is shielding -- that's what's known as coaxial cable. ( Why don't they pass data on cable ? :-)

    This is analogous to the water company trying to deliver water with perforated pipes. The water just spills out everywhere and every couple hundred feet they would have to pump in more water so that you had sufficient water pressure at your house.

    BPL was rejected in Japan and Europe, becuase it polluted the spectrum so bad it was pathetic.

    For those dumping on ham radio as being obsolete or feel broadband is more important, consider that this will interfere with many other services including international ship distress frequencies, government (including military) allocations, shortwave broadcasts, and most likely aviation and public safety frequencies. Is your ability to get high speed pr0n more important than all this ?

    Why is everyone else (like the FCC and utility companies) saying this is great ? The FCC is pro-big business and pro-utility. Equipment vendors are retreading the same technology that was rejected overseas and not informing their clients, the power companies, of the true interference potential. The power companies are dying to get into the broadband race as the telcos have their heads up their butts with DSL.

    We need broadband, but this is not the solution. We need to remove the barriers for DSL and cable. Power companies could leapfrog the telcos and cable companies with fiber into the home or unlicensed wireless from their poles.

    Quite simply, BPL is DOA.

    • consider that this will interfere with many other services including international ship distress frequencies, government (including military) allocations, shortwave broadcasts, and most likely aviation and public safety frequencies. Is your ability to get high speed pr0n more important than all this ?


  • Well, Duh. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:20PM (#6651856) Homepage
    Broadband over power lines is running a high frequency signal over unshielded, untwisted wire, for miles. Hmm, who would have thought that could cause radio interference? Maybe the power companies (and the equipment manufacturers) should have thought about this for a bit longer.

    It's one thing to run fiber to the curb, and use a low-power signal to the home - that might be workable. It's basically what the hybrid fiber coax cable systems do, but their wire is shielded too.

    If the equipment is generating this much RF interference, I don't see how the equipment could be certified for deployment. If it is certified, I'd be interested to know what agency put their mark on it.
  • Disappointed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NatZi ( 119253 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:26PM (#6651913)
    I have been reading /. for years and this is the most disappointing reaction to a story posting that I have seen to date.

    First, BPL is proven to cause interference to more than just amateur radio. Amateur radio operators are one of the few groups that has the skills and capabilities to prove the problem exists before a major mistake is made in deploying BPL.

    Second, I have seen a number of anecdotes indicating that "ham" radio operators are jerks and, therefore, apparently should not have any rights. Obviously, in any group, a small minority of the members may be jerks. However, "hams" are by far one of the kindest, most intelligent, and thoughtful groups that I know. It is not fair for me to minimize the "jerk" problem, but I cannot see a link between being a jerk and having rights taken away. Get to know some real amateur radio operators and you will see a dedicated, service-oriented, and technologically cutting edge group.

    Third, amateur radio operators are licensed by the FCC. The licensing requires extensive testing and is conducted very professionally (locate a local VEC session and you will see what I mean about professionalism). The tests are rigorous, especially for the higher classes, and require the applicant to be seriously interested in radio and technical communications.
    Amateur radio operators are not a bunch of people with "CBs" sitting around making life difficult for others.

    Forth, amateur radio operators are largely responsible for many of the "Internet crowd" technologies. Wireless Internet (I was doing that in 1990), satellite tv, "cell" phones, etc. were all largely based on amateur radio technologies. Amateur radio is really a cutting edge scientific and technical discipline.

    Fifth, and probably most important, BPL may sound like an excellent idea; but the telecom industry promised broadband access via standard telephone and digital line technologies to most people in the US by 2006 as part of the mega merger process in the 1980s and 1990s. In exchange for creating mega-monopolies, the telcos promised to provide broadband services. The telcos, however, have heavily lobbied Congress and state governments to conveniently "forget" this little deal because it is now "too expensive." If the telcos would be held to their agreements, poor technologies like BPL would not be needed. Think about it: do you really want your Internet connections from a high voltage/amperage power line? Contact your Congressperson and state representatives and ask why the telcos have not lived up to the commitments.

    I guess I am just disappointed that a number of /.ers are attacking amateur radio rather than seeking more information about the service. "Hams" are not just ten old guys sitting around using "CBs" to talk in some antiquated manner or a bunch of old guys hunched over a telegraph key slowly tapping out morse code. Amateur radio is also not just an "emergency" service -- although some amateur radio operators do participate in emergency communications. You would be amazed at what amateur radio has to offer -- GPS location services, radio/Internet interconnects, satellite communications, digital communications, microwave projects, rural Internet, and other bleeding edge projects. Many of these projects will become standard /.er fair in five or ten years.

    Sorry to get on my soap box.
  • by RocketScientist ( 15198 ) * on Friday August 08, 2003 @09:34PM (#6651950)
    Check this out. [].

    There's a link there for the PDF of the spectrum allocation. Pretty much "DC to Daylight". The piece that BPL is going to destroy covers a lot of Ham allocations. But it also covers things like:
    Maritime Mobile
    Aeronautical Mobile
    Space Research
    Standard Time Signals
    Shortwave Broadcast
    Radio Astronomy
    Land Mobile

    The amateur service is a very small part of the spectrum below 30 Mhz. A lot of it is used for things like trans-oceanic flights, military and civilian mobile services, and the like.

    I'm of two minds whether this will pass or not. Michael Powell, the FCC chair, hasn't made a good decision since he got into office, so I'm thinking this will go through because he's got the power companies all giving him blow jobs under the table. On the other hand, the FAA, NTIA, the military, and the shortwave broadcasters may get through to the FCC that they can't allow this, and maybe somebody will get that lamebrain Powell to do something right.
  • by lophophore ( 4087 ) on Friday August 08, 2003 @10:32PM (#6652257) Homepage
    There is a lot more in the affected bandwidth than ham radio. The hams are just the most vocal group to oppose BPL.

    There is worldwide shortwave broadcast, citizen's band, government and land-mobile radio, too, including police and fire dispatch (although a lot of that has moved up to VHF higher, there is still a lot on "low band"), cordless telephones and baby monitors, television channels 2-6, etc.

    So it's not just hams that will lose out if this technology is deployed. Shortwave listeners, public safety communications, other land mobile (there are a lot of utilities using these frequencies) and pepole receiving television off antennas will all find their communcations disrupted.

    Not to mention the technical problems of distributing RF over a very-low-frequency network.

    This is a bad idea, poorly implemented. Like a nuclear powered airplane with an air-shielded reactor. An idea who's time will never come.

"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire