Communication Technologies Inc., a Chantilly-based company offering high-speed Internet service over electrical lines, yesterday tapped as its vice president of operations a public official who helped the firm set up a network in Manassas.
Allen P. Todd, the former director of utilities for Manassas, joined the company, which is known as Comtek, to negotiate similar deals with power companies around the country. Last year, Todd helped Comtek set up the country's first municipality-owned power-line Internet service.
That network now serves 500 customers in the Manassas area at $28.95 a month for residential subscribers, and is serving as the model for similar trials in several communities on the West Coast and in the mid-Atlantic area.
"I worked very closely with Comtek. They were a very progressive and innovative company" offering affordable Internet in a simple way, Todd said. "It takes no digging to install any new fiber or cable," which means minimal disruption to the community, he said.
Providers of fledgling "broadband-over-powerline" technology hope to compete with cable and telephone Internet technologies but have yet to capture major market share. The service is used by several thousand people around the country, with a few small companies like Comtek and Current Technologies LLC in Germantown offering the service, much of which is still being offered on a trial basis.
Other commercial deployments have been launched in Nelson County, Va., offered by the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative and Internet service provider IBEC. The service is also offered in Cincinnati by Cinergy Corp. and Current Technologies.
The technology is simple to use and relatively easy to deploy, said Walter Adams, vice president of new technology for Comtek. The Internet connection travels over the same line as the electricity but does not interfere with the power transmission because that signal travels at a different frequency. A user simply plugs a modem into the electrical socket to connect.
The technology has more users in Europe, where the density of homes makes it possible to deploy the network more efficiently, Adams said. In the United States, federal regulators have approved the technology for widespread use, but the company must get state regulatory approval to offer the service, he said. Over the next couple of years, as the cost of the technology falls and as regulators and companies work through business concerns, the power-line technology could become mainstream, he said.
Comtek is 14 years old and employs more than 900 people.