Commission pushes for broadband via power grid

11 Apr 2005

Taking advantage of energy market liberalisation across the EU, the European Commission is pushing the idea of using electrical power supply lines as a way of offering low-cost, high-speed internet access.

In a series of recommendations on Friday to various EU member states the commission clarified rules on using electric power cables to carry electronic data.

The commission said it intends to boost competition in the broadband market by opening up the market to new suppliers of high-speed broadband via the electrical grid.

Internet access via power lines has so far taken hold in only a few urban areas, but the commission described the potential as huge. The EU has some 200 million power lines running directly into houses, schools and businesses.

The commission claims energy market liberalisation across the EU is creating new opportunities for power-utility companies to exploit their existing power supply cables to create an alternative broadband supply route. In many cases, uncertainty about the rules governing this market has been a barrier to entry. To ensure that the rules are clear, the commission has discussed the recommendation and arrangements for implementing it at length with EU member states.

The commission’s information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding commented: “Affordable high-speed internet access is vital to sustain EU competitiveness in many businesses, large and small. I want to make sure suppliers can exploit all technological possibilities and we combine forces in Europe to boost broadband deployment.”

Among the commission’s recommendations was a ruling that EU member states remove any unjustified regulatory obstacles, in particularly from utility companies, on the deployment of broadband power-line communication systems. It is understood the commission’s recommendations are compatible with existing legislation and with the new electromagnetic compatibility directive, which takes effect in mid 2007.

Günter Verheugen, the EU commissioner for enterprise and industry, explained: “Innovative technologies shall be given the opportunity to demonstrate their viability and contribute to growth in Europe.

“The prerequisite is a clear and balanced regulatory environment for attracting new players and new investment to the power-line broadband communications market. This commission recommendation will provide this clarity. Member states and innovative broadband service suppliers now face the challenge of making the most of this opportunity.”

By John Kennedy