Seeking to leverage existing hardware to bring broadband Internet services to rural areas of the eastern United States, a Huntsville, Alabama-based company announced today that it’s joining IBM in a new $9.6 million joint effort.
Officials at the International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., or “IBEC,” say they’re providing broadband-over-power-line, or “BPL,” technology and equipment to under-served rural residents while IBM (News - Alert) brings its management, oversight and training expertise.
Specifically, IBM will train line crews who will install BPL equipment on power lines – a quick and inexpensive way to deploy broadband access.
According to Scott Lee, chief executive officer of IBEC, U.S. residents in rural areas of the nation are trailing their urban and suburban counterparts in broadband availability.
“This capability will play a critical role in rural health, education, and economic development, while closing the digital divide that exists between well served and underserved America,” Lee said.
The work will take place at electric cooperatives in the eastern United States, according to the companies. There are more than 900 electric cooperatives in the United States, and they currently provide 45 percent of the total electric grid and covering 75 percent of the nation’s land mass.
According to Raymond Blair, director of advanced networks at IBM, the partnership with IBEC leverages his company’s communications and project management experience with the market presence and position of IBEC in the rural electric cooperatives.
“High-speed Internet service is revolutionizing the way we do business, and access to this resource will generate great opportunities for rural America,” Blair said.
Once it’s in place, the broadband Internet ability is expected to serve the rural areas in other ways. For example, having a broadband Web connection will help utility companies monitor, manage, and control the reliability of their electric grid and further optimize the capabilities of IBEC, according to the companies.
For Bill Moroney, president and chief executive officer of the Utilities Telecom Council – a utility telecom advocate – the joint IBM and IBEC effort marks a key development in the growth and availability of high-speed BPL Internet services and widespread availability of critical SmartGrid applications in the United States.
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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael�s articles, please visit his columnist page.