Manassas to end broadband-over-power line Internet service

By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Manassas, Va. -- Manassas residents who rely on the city's broadband-over-power line Internet service will have to find a new provider after Manassas City Council members voted unanimously Monday to end the city's role as a telecommunications provider.

Manassas took over the program from Communication Technologies in October 2008, and city officials have debated whether to keep it. The BPL service, which reaches about 520 residents and businesses, runs off the city's electrical grid and allows users to access the Internet through any electrical socket, rather than through phone or cable television lines. The service is about 10 times as fast as dial-up, while most households today have a service that is 50 times as fast as dial-up, officials with the Manassas utilities department said.

Proponents once said they wanted to give BPL a chance because it provided affordable Internet service, about $25 a month. Some council members said it is not the government's job to provide Internet service. Manassas officials said BPL costs the city $170,000 annually.

"I think this was a worthwhile experience . . . but the business model just didn't work," Manassas City Council member J. Steven Randolph (I) said.

Manassas officials said notices will be sent to users of the BPL service, who will have until July 1 to find a new provider. Comcast serves the entire city, and Verizon officials said they serve "most" Manassas residents, with plans to have Fios Internet available to all residents by 2011.

Discontinuing the BPL service could mean losing the wireless Internet available in Old Town, which was launched less than a year ago and has not had many users, city officials said. Manassas utilities officials said they will try to find the $2,000 to $3,000 a year needed to operate it through another provider.

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