Bob's Links and Rants

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Saturday, June 12, 2004

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

It's past time to just assume that everything the Bushies say is a lie, and everything they do is for an evil purpose. Maybe they occasionally tell the truth and do something good, but those occasions are so few and far between that Congress and the rest of us would be much better off to just assume the worst and force the Bushies to prove their case on every issue.

Reader Rick sends the following about Michael Powell's latest attempt to screw us all:
Let me talk a minute about another front in their propaganda war, one that concerns me personally as a Ham radio operator:
For the past year or so, Michael Powell (Yes, Colin's son.) as chairman of the FCC, has been attempting to railroad thru a relaxation of the Part 15 rules on 'unintentional radiation by unlicensed services' to facilitate the deployment of Broadband over Power Lines technology. The
administration is touting it as a means to bring broadband internet connections to the entire country, by utilizing the existing Power distribution lines as the communication medium.

For several technical reasons, this simply does not work:
1) Power transmission lines are optimized for the transmission of energy at 60Hz. There are good technical reasons why an engineer would choose coaxial cable, twisted pair, or fiber over widely-spaced parallel transmission lines for signals in the 2-80Mhz range where they are proposing to modulate the data signals. At those frequencies, the power transmission lines don't contain the energy, they act like an antenna!
2) A radiator works in both directions. If energy is leaking out of a system, it is also susceptible to radiation leaking in. Thus, if the BPL signals are radiating out to the neighborhood, a legitimate, Ham radio, CB, Public service, Pager, or other Licensed service (which has priority over unlicensed services per the Communications Act of 1934) can also leak in and disrupt the data signals.
3) The claim that BPL will bring broadband internet technology to anyone that has a power plug is patently false. Because of the losses described above, the data signals can only traverse a few miles on the power lines before they are too weak to be deciphered, so 'repeaters' must be installed. In practice, the implementers are running separate fiber optic cables out to the neighborhoods, then using BPL only for the 'last mile' to the house. This need for a separate pure-digital backbone network is NO DIFFERENT than existing ISDN, cable-modem or DSL technology, and thus the cost of delivering high-speed broadband to sparsely populates rural areas will be just as prohibitive as the current technologies.

The end result appears to me that the administration is pushing this for two reasons: First, it's an opportunity to funnel large 'Research' grants to their business friends, so that they can develop technologies that will make them even more money. And second, it in effect implements via a 'back door', a nationwide distributed short-wave jamming transmitter network, so that when they don't want the people to have access to outside news sources, they can easily block it. The 'Project for a new American Century' seems to be hell-bent on re-creating the Iron Curtain of the Fifties.

If you're interested in more detailed technical explanations of BPL and its effects, I can direct you to several resources on the ARRL web page (
Rick is right. Back-channel communications, like Ham radios, are crucial to maintaining democracy. During the April 2002 coup in Venezuela, the coup leaders, who controlled all of the mainstream media, instituted a virtual media blackout. While the coup leaders were making fascist proclamations and holding the twice-elected president hostage, their TV stations were showing nature films. Only by using back-channel communications, in particular the Internet and cell phones, were the huge masses of Chavez supporters able to find out what had actually happened. When they did, they marched on the palace and chased the golpistas away.

BTW, I love getting e-mails like that. They give me the opportunity to provide useful information on the blog, and not just copies of the days headlines with my own little slant added. Thanks, Rick!