Rites of Spring #28 Technology of our undoing – broadband over power lines

Broadband over internet noise - what a stupid idea this isMy day job is in multi-media design, modernization, implementation and blah, blah, blah…

…in the educational environment. In my case UVic.
(so)Give me a classroom or lab with a black board and a piece of chalk and I will give you video data projection, infinitely variable lighting controls, high speed internet, web-casting and sound so crisp you would swear it’s live.

because in the year 2010, it’s easily to learn when you have all the tools.
And this applies to the home as well.

I have a PC workstation for audio production and a MacBook Pro for doing the stuff I am doing right now… a very high speed internet connection… and Wireless-N that I do not even use. I like my cat-5 wiring if at all possible. It is secure… and it’s reliable as gravity my friends.

I also like keeping my bits and bytes contained within copper cable if possible. Not adverse to wireless… as long as it’s wireless-N or better. Which is secure as heck after all – low power. It’s safe. And nobody gets hurt, right?
Well, there is something that has come down the pipe (more popular in Europe than here) that is scaring the crap out of me – not for what it does to people or creatures – but what it potentially takes away from us… our ability to communicate.

It’s called broadband over the power lines or BPL and it uses house wiring for distributed ethernet. God knows who designed this stuff. It has the capability, ironically, of seriously interfering with existing digital radio and TV and old style AM and FM radio – impeding our ability to communicate with each other and enjoy our high tech lives. Now that is genuinely ironic wouldn’t you say?

The boxes (shown above and sold at COST-CO) are made in China and they are shit. Some colleagues and I are investigating an interference report from the area around Beacon Hill Park in Victoria – some 4 city blocks wide! And it is likely one of these little peckers (shown above). From some of the intelligence that we have gathered, people are buying these units at COST-CO and then returning them shortly thereafter – not because they don’t work… because they do – but because they are difficult to set up.

Wireless-N is tried, tested and true – sets up easily and does not interfere with any domestic or terrestrial radio or data services.

Now imagine that you neighbor down the street buys one of these boxes and your audiophile set-up is screwed… or your HD TV is now replete with interference lines or inexplicable odd behavior – and don’t think for a second that because it’s digital it is immune to interference – cause it ain’t.

So think about this: One device (shown above) and 4 city blocks wiped out.
How wiped out? I listen to CFAX 1070 AM in Victoria and the offending box (or something like it – we are not exactly sure it is this particular unit) actually interferes with a 10,000 watt radio station.

This should concern us.