COMTek touts city-wide commercial deployment of broadband-over-powerline (BPL) technology in Manassas, Virginia

October 6, 2005

4 Min Read

MANASSAS, VA. -- The 37,000-person Washington, D.C. suburb of Manassas, Virginia, is now home to a major national success story in broadband access: the first city-wide commercial deployment of broadband-over-powerline (BPL) technology anywhere in the United States, according to Communication Technologies, Inc. (COMTek), the Chantilly, Va.-based “Inc. 500” company that owns and operates the BPL network in Manassas. BPL technology uses the electricity grid in a city and the wiring in individual homes to provide direct “plug in” broadband access through electricity sockets, rather than over phone or cable TV lines.

COMTek said that the roughly 12,500 households in Manassas now are within the reach of its BPL network and that commercial services are availablethroughout the city to 2,500 businesses on an on-demand basis. COMTekalready has an estimated 700 customers in Manassas, with another 500 requests for service now being processed. In addition to Manassas, COMTek is in negotiations to deliver similar services for nine other investor-owned utilities, municipal-owned utilities, and other entities.

COMTek Founder and CEO Joseph E. Fergus said: “This is truly a historic day for COMTek, which is the U.S. leader in broadband over powerline services.The major national technology milestone that we are announcing today with the City of Manassas is the most eloquent possible expression of ourcommitment to grow the BPL category of broadband access. Make no mistakeabout it: What we are announcing today in Manassas is something that we could be rolling out in a year or two from now in literally scores ofcommunities across the U.S. The Manassas experiment is a good thing forevery American who lives in any city or town with little or no access to affordable broadband.”

City of Manassas Mayor Douglas Waldron said: “Manassas resolved to move forward with broadband over powerline as a major enhancement of what ourcity-owned utility provides to its customers. COMTek accepted thechallenge of working with us by building a BPL network that would serve all of our citizens. This has proven to be an extraordinarily positive and results-oriented partnership in which every citizen of Manassas can take pride. We have accomplished something here that will be a model for other cities and towns across the United States.”

Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) said: “Congress is looking closely at ways to improve broadband access in rural and other non-urban settings and that is why I am so encouraged by the Manassas success with broadband overpowerline. The City of Manassas and COMTek are to be applauded for theirleadership roles in pioneering access in a way that has never been achieved anywhere else in the United States. Now, the challenge before us is to make this same sort of success story blossom across the nation.”

American Public Power Association President and CEO Mr. Alan H. Richardsonsaid: “The American Public Power Association’s member-supported Demonstration of Energy-Efficient Developments (DEED) program provided a grant in 2001 to the City of Manassas for the initial investigation of how BPL could provide Internet access to consumers and businesses, while enhancing the efficiency and reliability of the electric utility. The City of Manassas has led the way for many other community-owned electric utilities. Its successful deployment and ‘lessons learned’ will help other public power communities evaluate the communications and utility opportunities of this technology.”

In July 2004, the City of Manassas selected COMTek to provide BPL services over the city’s electric system. COMTek owns and operates the BPL network and also serves as the ISP, providing email and Web hosting services for customers. COMTek signs up and services the needs of Manassas customers.The City of Manassas provides utility staff to install BPL couplers and repeaters and to maintain the fiber connections that link COMTek servers androuters to the power lines. The city receives a portion of subscriberrevenues to offset the manpower and equipment resources that they contribute to the BPL services.

In addition to delivering broadband access to residential and commercial customers, COMTek has enabled the Manassas utility to save money and respond more quickly in identifying outages at both the transformer and customer level, central control for traffic signals, and operating video surveillancesystems at substations. The City is exploring opportunities to use BPL forother advanced utility applications such as automatic distribution switching, which would restore power more quickly to the grid after outages, and automated meter reading, which already is available on the Manassas network.

In February 2005, COMTek was identified as a national leader in broadband-over-powerline technology by a report from the New Millennium Research Council (NMRC). The report noted that trials and actual commercial deployments of BPL systems are on the rise, with over 20 projects in operation in 2004 and more expected to come online in 2005. Roughly a quarter million homes in the United States already had the opportunity tochoose BPL services in 2004, according to NMRC.

Major investments in BPL technology have been announced in recent months by such major entities as Google, Hearst and Goldman Sachs. Both the White House and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have highlighted BPL technology as an important way to get broadband access to underserved portions of the nation.

Communication Technologies Inc. (COMTek)

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