Only a year ago, broadband over power line (BPL) was seen as a technology with an uncertain future and far from implementation. Despite early snafus, BPL has ironed out its kinks and is now being rolled out. Though largely ignored, this is one of the most exciting events to hit technology news in a long time.
Considering how long the Internet has been sharing phone lines, it's taken a long time for power lines to reach the dual-use point. Cable and DSL Internet service providers have been crossing their fingers hoping it wouldn't happen.
It's sneaking up on them just as cable Internet launched a sneak attack on dial-up providers. Now, the dial-up providers are largely dependent on phone company partnerships and rural customers who can't get cable or DSL. But what will become of them if those customers -- which represent a significant portion of the population -- can get broadband Internet over their power lines? And who would have thought we may soon be paying our power company for Internet access?
Test customers have been happy with the service, and there have been no problems with interference. Furthermore, all that's needed to tap into it is a $30 HomePlug power line modem, which the company will be giving away.
Cinergy isn't the only utility looking at this technology, either. There are numerous power companies developing the capability or watching its development closely. Internet start-ups like Current Communications are waiting in the wings to help the utilities initiate and manage the service.
It's a potentially huge revenue source for the utilities, with the possibility of being a huge revenue drain for the current Internet providers. Cable Internet providers like Comcast
From the look of things, this technology will roll out much faster than most people expect. I am certainly willing to give it a try if and when it comes to my area. And I recommend you check with your local power company to see if it has any plans to implement the technology. If so, consider taking a good look at both the stock and the service. It could be the next big thing.
Motley Fool contributor Mark Mahorney doesn't own shares of any companies mentioned.