IBEC Updates NCL & Discusses IBM Relationship


A screenshot of a recent trade publication (BPL Today) article on the IBM / IBEC partnership.
A screenshot of a recent trade publication (BPL Today) article on the IBM / IBEC partnership.

Screen image and story courtesy of www.bpltoday.com

Updated: 11.24.08 6:00 PM to correct IBM partnership in Nelson BPL deployment.

Nelson County, Virginia
Within the past few days NCL spoke again with IBEC Network Operations Manager, Asa Gage in Alabama. Asa was responding to our questions as to whether the recent announcement that IBM and IBEC were teaming up would have any effect or enhancement to the project underway here in Nelson. You can read the entire history about that by clicking here for previous articles.

“The recent partnership between IBEC and IBM won’t really affect anything underway there in Nelson. It won’t be a factor at Martins Store at all as that is about complete, but they will have some involvement in other areas of deployment like Rockfish River Road and Tanbark Drive areas,” says Asa. Update: Spoke again with Asa at IBEC on 11.24.08 and he tells me that I misunderstood the statement above that we have a strike through. Actually IBM will be assisting in future CVEC substation deployments, not the ones currently being worked, such as Martins Store, which included Tanbark and Rockfish River Rd area.

No specifics were given in the conversation as to when BPL might be activated out of the Martins Store Substation at the intersection of Route 6 & 151. Last word was that Verizon was completing their connection of data circuits to the site that provide the backbone for the internet to BPL.

Here is the complete story from the article above, courtesy of BPL Today.com:

What IBM knows about IBEC
puts BPL back into headlines
November 18, 2008

The number of news organizations around the globe that picked up the Associated Press report on IBM’s US$9.6 million in IBEC last week is not easily countable. Our favorite comment was from a blogger that announced “BPL is dead — long live BPL,” a nod to the British tradition made famous in Shakespeare plays of announcing loyalty to the new king upon the death of the king.

Well BPL has been limping in recent months and even years — but the industry meanwhile is plugging away at solving its problems as it readies for new life.

When people wonder how the “hype” for BPL can continue long after the business model has been successfully defected by most of the electric utility world, the answer is that this is a technology and a market that’s still in its infancy and most people forget how long infancy really lasts. Other technologies have taken as long or even much longer to take shape.

As for the hype, the electric industry is expert at ignoring it. The one time in recent history that the power industry bent to hype — the fiber boom and subsequent crash of the late 1990s — served to toughen the resolve of the industry not to deploy expensive technology until it’s well tested, or so it seems.

We have reported warnings from some utilities and their partners in the field that today’s BPL has failed to yet deliver on its biggest promises.

Meanwhile IBEC has been working to make the promise of BPL a reality for the top dozen or so co-ops on its reportedly very long list of firms eager to get service.

The second tranche of USDA loans for IBEC deployments finally made it through the several-year approval cycle recently and it seems the timing of IBM’s announcement — and maybe the decision itself — was influenced by the government’s financial backing to the tune of $50 million.

IBM is not a stranger to BPL — having sworn by the technology for “smart grid” deployments for years, taking it overseas to utilities in India, we believe, and playing a key role in the UPLC.

The UPLC’s chief Bill Moroney was quoted in the AP article, a welcome reminder that the organizations that support the BPL industry are still engaged. While the BPL world has turned its focus to smart grids, the leading characters of the industry are still dedicated to the development of the networks that will serve countless applications and services to electric delivery firms and their customers — and even some of their generation suppliers.

We have reported for years that, of all the business models puts forth for BPL over the years, IBEC seemed to have it right from the start. That may be to the firm’s credit or it may just be lucky. The rural electric cooperative market does fit well with the just folks, no bull demeanor IBEC and its CEO, Scott Lee.

But while his style may put rural power firms at ease, Lee’s BPL business acumen is attractive to world-class IBM, too.

Remember, the Wall Street-funded IOUs don’t own the majority of the power lines. Co-ops do.

Relative recent BPL startup Utility.net saw the beauty in IBEC’s business model and teamed up with the firm to use its co-op oriented model connect the more rural electric customers at IOUs and municipal power administrations — those underserved and un-served by incumbent broadband providers.

And it’s important to remember that IBEC’s secret sauce isn’t just taking broadband service to the underserved, it’s got a deal with a leading lightning arrester maker called Cooper Power that makes installing BPL easier for line workers and cheaper, we’ve been told.

“The technology is important but what’s really important is this is a seminal moment in the delivery of broadband services to rural customers,” the AP quoted Moroney. “Here’s a beginning and really a great leap forward.”


  1. Yes, and ‘seminal moments’ are the influences on LATER developments. This can be one as defined by the complete failure of BPL to deliver on its promises, OR [as we all hope] it can be one as IBEC succeeds in demonstrating the efficacy of BPL for rural America – starting with Nelson County, Virginia. We all wait, no as patiently as before, for IBEC to activate the system. The wait can be made more palatable if IBEC would consent to a ‘live’ feed of installation and activation progress via a web link, an interactive map, or a regularly updated blog. I’d be glad to help implement a communication conduit. Tommy knows where/how to find me. Can we talk, IBEC????

  2. Yes, we do agree Greg, this has not been the best public relations execution by a company. Not all, but many of us that operate small businesses from here in Nelson are pretty savvy when it comes to the internet and its uses. It would be a great help to veteran users, as well as casual users to have an RSS feed developed by IBEC to update everyone.

    And yes, IBEC Greg knows how to do it!

  3. Just so you know, i spoke with a customer rep person at IBEC last week and was told that the ETA for some of our area is December 15. They chose not to post this ETA on the site since it is not for the entire area.

  4. IBEC and December 15th? Here we are on the 16th. Rev. Thompson told us above the ETA was the 15th for some of our area. Has ANYONE seen/heard anything? Does anyone in the Martin’s Store roll out have service? Inquiring minds needs to know.

  5. Rev. Thompson,
    Thanks for your updates. May others of us have direct contact with a reliable source of information at IBEC? Would you share a telephone number or email address all of us could use? I seem to have lost track of the one contact I had in the past. Should we call the phone number in the modem box?


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