Utility Generates Broadband Power

In what the companies called the first large-scale rollout of broadband services by a U.S. power company, Current Communications Group and Cinergy Broadband will offer high-speed Internet and voice-over-Internet-protocol telephony to 1.5 million consumer and business customers in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Current said it has created two joint ventures with Cinergy. The first will handle the Midwest deployments. The second will deploy broadband-over-power line (BPL) technology to smaller municipal and cooperative-owned power companies serving 24 million U.S. customers.

Cinergy is also making an investment in Current, the companies said. Current has raised $70 million from Cinergy and original investors Liberty Associated Partners, partially backed by Liberty Media, and EnerTech Capital.

“We fully anticipate that customers will be attracted to the simplicity of our service,” said Ronald Boillat, president of Current Communications Services, the company’s broadband subsidiary. “We don’t just bring broadband to the home — we bring broadband to where the customer wants it — in every room in the home.

“You just plug the computer into any outlet and you have an instant, always-on connection to the Internet.”

The service has been in trials in the Cincinnati area for the past 14 months Users plug a HomePlug power-line modem into an electrical socket. Data flows through to modem and onto to the power company’s copper-line network.

The signal bypasses the local power transformers through a bypass coupler device. (Transformers typically serve between six and 15 homes.)

The data signal maintains its strength until about one mile from the home, where it begins to degrade. Since it can’t be reamplified like a traditional cable signal, the data signal is passed to a local fiber ring via fiber or wireless connection, a Cinergy spokesman said. Cinergy plans to lease fiber capacity from local telecommunications companies.

The initial high-speed service would cost $29.95 a month for 1 Megabit per second of service and $39.95 a month for 3 Mbps. Prices include the cost of the modem.

VoIP service is planned at a later date.