Really Dark Fiber: Web Access via Sewers - Competition and Future Outlook
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H2O Networks wasn’t the first company to provide Internet connections via sewer lines. In January 2002, the Register reported that Urband, a joint venture between Thames Water and 186k, was laying fiber optic cables in the sewers near London’s Docklands area. The idea was to provide a wholesale broadband Internet service, which Urband expected to appeal to telecoms, hotels, and service providers. British Telecom was unfazed by the potential competition, however. And perhaps they were right not to worry; a link to Urband’s web site indicates that it is under construction, leading one to believe that the entire project has been moribund.
In 2004, Scottish Water and Fibrelink (Scotland) Ltd. teamed up for a pilot project to run a fiber broadband network through Scottish Water’s sewers to a business park at Rosyth in Fife. Scottish Water leased its lines to Fibrelink, which agreed to provide the cabling and fiber; the system would then hook up with telecoms for last link connectivity. Again, I could find nothing more recent about this particular project.
Another alternative to Internet access via sewer lines is Internet access via power lines. A user would be able to plug in his or her computer and get both power and Internet access through the same outlet. In 2005, 50 companies joined together to establish the standard for products for broadband over power line (BPL). The HomePlug Powerline Alliance includes Comcast, Conexant, EarthLink, RadioShack, Sharp, and a number of utilities companies. While it is gaining momentum, it doesn’t look as though more conventional Internet access providers need to be worried yet.
Still, both technologies offer certain advantages over the conventional approach. While Internet access through the sewers is off to a slow start, its speed of construction and highly reduced cost should give it an edge to far outweigh its potential “ick” factor. Choosing not to use such a system, and ignoring its advantages, would be a terrible waste.
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