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IBM to Install Broadband Over Power Line For 13 Rural Utilities

IBM has signed a contract with International Broadband Electric Communications to deploy broadband-over-power-line networks with 13 rural electric utilities in areas that the two companies say are underserved by cable and telco high-speed Internet services.

Under the $9.6 million agreement, IBM will install IBEC’s broadband-over-power-line networks at electric cooperatives in seven states within the next two years.

The 13 utilities represent a total of approximately 62,000 subscribers in Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. An IBM spokeswoman said a list of the electric co-ops was not immediately available.

IBM will provide overall project management and training of the line crews installing the BPL equipment from IBEC, which will also act as the Internet service provider.

IBEC, based in Huntsville, Ala., provides BPL Internet access solutions and services focused on rural U.S. markets. Its residential pricing ranges from $29.95 a month for 256-Kbps service to $89.95 per month for 3-Mbps service.

"Americans in rural areas of the country trail their urban and suburban counterparts in broadband availability," IBEC CEO Scott Lee said in a statement. "This capability will play a critical role in rural health, education, and economic development, while closing the digital divide that exists between well-served and underserved America."

Broadband-over-power-line systems use standard power lines to carry data in an RF signal in the magnetic field surrounding the wires.

Currently, there are over 900 electric cooperatives in the U.S., which provide 45% of the total electric grid and cover 75% of the land mass in the U.S., according to IBEC.