Broadband through an electric outlet. It’s been a siren call for utilities ever since it became clear that cable modems and DSL were going to be a success back in the late 90s. Heck, if Comcast and Verizon can do it over their wires, why couldn’t Con Edison? The technical challenges of transmitting data over lines intended for AC have been daunting, however. And convincing utilities that the upgrade investment would be worthwhile hasn’t always been easy.
But here it comes again, this time in a story about how new technology from Matsushita will make it possible for electric-line broadband to be widely integrated into a variety of consumer devices, from TV sets to refrigerators (Why is it always refrigerators? Next to my stove, that’s the one appliance I want to install once and forget for a couple decades. Now I’m going to have to think about upgrading it every couple years the way I do my PC? No thanks.) There are enough pilots in places such as Houston and Virginia to make me think that maybe this time it will actually happen. And I’d certainly welcome another competitor to help drive down my broadband bill. But if the technology becomes widespread anytime soon, I’ll be…well…shocked. –Christopher Lindquist