Texans in rural areas could get easier access to high-speed Internet service if a bill passed today by the Business and Commerce Committee becomes law. Senate Bill 1748 authorizes utilities to offer on an emerging technology called "broadband over power lines" (BPL). Senator Troy Fraser, who chairs the committee and authored SB 1748, believes that this new technology could bring the Internet to some of the most remote areas of the state. "What this potentially could mean is that broadband could be delivered by simply having a device that you plug into a socket," said Fraser. Using BPL, high-speed Internet access could be available anywhere there was a power line. While the technology to access the Internet via power lines has existed for some time, pilot programs in Florida, New York, and Ohio demonstrated that this technology was not cost-effective. A recent pilot program conducted by Texas-based business has shown that the cost of this type of Internet access has become more affordable.
Fraser believes that BPL could have a number of positive effects. First, it could bring high-speed Internet service to the rural areas of the state where the only option is dial-up service. Additionally, the introduction of a new conduit for broadband would increase competition in urban areas, which could result in lower prices for all broadband services.
The major challenge facing the widespread implementation of BPL, according to Fraser, is finding investors to back implementation. Fraser said the state must find a way to promote it and make it clear that there is potential for profit through BPL. SB 1748 would permit electric utilities and co-ops to implement BPL, and also to determine how they will manage their broadband programs. It would also allow the companies to elect to regulate their own rates in an effort to recover investment costs. The committee unanimously approved the passage of SB 1748.
The Senate will reconvene Friday, April 22, at 9:30 a.m.