Closing The Digital Divide: IBM Aims To Bring Broadband To Rural Areas


IBM is the first major systems integrator to enter into the Broadband over Power Line, or BPL, arena and will provide project management, oversight and training to the line crews who will be installing the equipment.

Currently, there are more than 900 electric cooperatives in the U.S. that provide 45 percent of the total electric grid, which covers 75 percent of the land mass in the U.S. IBM is hoping that by pairing with IBEC, the BPL plan will help bring ISPs to parts of the country that have been, for the most part, left off the grid.

"This partnership leverages the deep communications and project management expertise of IBM with the market presence and position of IBEC in the rural electric cooperatives to accelerate the deployment of broadband services in these underserved areas," Raymond Blair, director of Advanced Networks at IBM, said in a statement. "High-speed Internet service is revolutionizing the way we do business, and access to this resource will generate great opportunities for rural America."

Scott Lee, CEO of IBEC, believes that by bringing BPL to rural parts of the country, those residents will be able to catch up with their urban and suburban counterparts who have been taking advantage of the Web for years.

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"Americans in rural areas of the country trail their urban and suburban counterparts in broadband availability," said Lee in a statement. "This capability will play a critical role in rural health, education and economic development, while closing the digital divide that exists between well-served and underserved America."

In addition to bringing BPL to outlying parts of the country, IBM and IBEC eventually hope to expand the scope of their partnership by helping utilities with monitoring, managing and controlling the grid.

What IBM and IBEC have seemed to miss, however, is that BPL has been largely panned and has been predicted to die off. Still, with a $9.6 million cash infusion, perhaps the reports of BPL's death were premature.