T&D World Magazine

Commercial Broadband Rollout in Michigan has Potential to Reach 1 Million Customers in Coming Years

Utility.net, in cooperation with Consumers Energy, which provides electric or natural gas service to 6.5 million of Michigan's 10 million residents, has announced the next phase of a project to deploy Broadband-over- power lines (BPL) commercially in central Michigan.

In 2006, Consumers Energy and the Shpigler Group engaged in delivering a proof of concept of BPL system. Utility.net will now move forward with implementing a fully functional BPL production system. Utility.net will initially deploy its BPL network to 10,000 homes in and around the city of Grand Ledge, west of Michigan's capital, Lansing. Once this initial phase is completed, scheduled to be operational by end of 2007, Consumers Energy will grant to utility.net additional service areas in blocks of 100,000 customers. utility.net intends to roll out its BPL network to eventually reach one million Michigan customers over the next several years.

"We are very pleased that utility.net has been given the rights to move forward with the next phase and intends to bring broadband to communities in central Michigan that have few or no broadband provider choices today. utility.net's technology is designed to reach both rural and urban areas, but it is the rural areas in our service territory that have the most to gain. We are pleased to see our existing infrastructure being utilized to provide additional choices and options for broadband internet access," said Gerry Wyse, Consumers Energy's Project Manager.

Utility.net and its ISP partners will be offering three levels of high-speed Internet service in central Michigan: 768 kbps symmetrical, 1.5 Mbps symmetrical and 3.0 Mbps symmetrical. Most broadband services available to customers today are asymmetrical services featuring upload speeds that are much slower than download speeds and are marketed as "up to" speeds. utility.net's symmetrical service provides upload speeds that are just as fast as its download speeds and both are expected to be at or near the purchased service speeds 95% of the time. To customers this means that large files and files with pictures and other graphics will be sent much more quickly, internet chats that include video will be much more responsive, VPN connections and hosted websites will be better performing and Internet gaming will be more enjoyable.

"We are excited about deploying our proven broadband technology offering these more robust service options to CE customers in central Michigan. We are very confident that the communities to which we are bringing our service will be very pleased with the results," added David Flaxman, VP of business development for utility.net.

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