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Broadband over power lines gets poor reception

Survey: Consumers don't seem to trust their electricity suppliers to provide a reliable and properly supported Internet connection over power lines

Research published this week has shown that broadband over power line services may not be attractive to many potential customers.

America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laid out regulatory guidelines for companies who want to offer broadband over power lines (BPL) last month, and US utility firms are expected to begin selling services soon.

Trials are also already taking place in the UK, but the study from energy information firm Platts suggests that commercial take-up could be limited.

"Nearly one-quarter of residential customers in our survey said they would be very interested in BPL if their utility could beat the price of broadband Internet alternatives," said Michael Reid, a research director at Platts. "But interest dropped sharply when we introduced specific price points. At $29.95 per month -- below typical prices for Internet access via cable or DSL -- only 9 percent were still very interested."

If lower prices don't attract customers then BPL may struggle to be successful. Although the technology works today, there are still some problems with interference that could affect service performance.

One issue holding people back is a lack of trust in their electricity providers. Platts found that many customers had mixed feelings about the kind of reliability, customer service and technical support they could expect from a utility selling a BPL service.