02:00 AM Oct. 15, 2004 PT
WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators on Thursday adopted rules aimed at tempting electric utilities to offer broadband services -- a move officials hope will someday enable U.S. consumers to jack in to the web from virtually any power outlet.
It's unclear, however, just how long it will take for such services to become widespread.
The Federal Communications Commission's order also creates rules designed to protect existing licensed radio service users from harmful interference from broadband over power lines, or BPL, systems, providing more regulatory certainty for electric utilities considering deploying internet service.
It's all part of an effort to encourage wider adoption of high-speed services in the United States, which now ranks 11th among countries in broadband penetration. Right now, cable modem and digital subscriber line, or DSL, services hold a virtual duopoly over wired broadband services to the home.
Regulators said they hope Wednesday's order will rapidly lead to a third alternative entering the race for broadband customers, which could help drive down prices and increase speeds and features offered.
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