IBEC Pulling Plug On BPL Internet Service In Nelson And Other Areas

This is the message readers see on the www.ibec.net website telling customers they will cease operation by the end of January 2012. This affects Nelson County customers served by IBEC. Click image to enlarge.

Nelson County, Virginia
After years and millions of dollars in infrastructure, International Broadband Electric Communications is apparently shutting down operations within the next month. Customer support apparently ceased for at least some Nelson County, VA customers on Friday December 30th, according to a letter below sent to a customer in Afton just before Christmas.

We first told you about the IBEC-CVEC venture back in July of 2008. At the time deployment was just beginning, but even then months and months of delays put the project tremendously behind and often without performances originally promised.

Some hIstory of BPL here in Nelson

The IBEC cease of operations letter that was sent to an Afton resident dated December 23, 2011. Click to enlarge.

The letter and the company’s website says the events were unavoidable due to financial problems arising from April 2011 tornadoes in Alabama where IBEC is headquartered. The letter above sent to subscribers in Nelson went into greater detail saying much of the money sought in a federal stimulus package was never granted.

One shining light in this sage is the current ongoing construction of a fiber optic network being installed in Nelson County. After years in the planning, the construction kicked off in early December 2011. Fiber is being pulled from Colleen up Route 29 to Woods Mill, across Route 6 West to 151 then north toward Afton. That service is anticipated to become active within the next few months of 2012.

More updates as we have them!


  1. So for many of us it will be back to dial-up for……. whew….. 6 months? What a sad end to IBEC’s story. I really feel like they tried.

    Who will be the actual provider for the new broadband being installed?

  2. I’m surprised that no one has told us the actual provider companies, the cost per month or speed plans yet.

    It seems like Verizon or someone would be hyping us on this by now.

    This feels like a long ways off.

  3. Warning this is just a TEST , 4 years ago I called tech service @ 5 in the morning [don’t ask] & we talked for an hour , He said this broad band will go down all the time & will NEVER be a real provider, I was surprised he was saying this, but I kind of told him this would be great & he feed the rest of info. to me. But never thought they would drop us Guinna pigs.

    Thank goodness the county has someone who worked years for our own system with a real grant.And is nelsons system & will not go away . We are lucky to have this as very few in all of USA got this great help !

    The underground line are being marked & being laid now, so please wait for info. there will be local providers & claim a possible 10 G ?
    They now have government contracts for there now proven at our expense & aggravation ! It’s security & video sent high on polls via internet that’s where the money is. Watch & see , Google it they already have systems in place ,I set modem back at that time & got money back , [no one else will] Some of info. at board meetings minutes & county website.

  4. It is truly a sad day, now we are back at the mercy of the big boys and waiting for them to bring us service.

    If they were not trying so hard to put IBEC out of business in the past 4 years (Mr. Verizon), then maybe more of the members of CVEC would have had service.

    Now, we are back at the mercy of the president of Verizon; Ivan Seidenberg; who only made a mear

    Yes folks …. Mr. Ivan Seidenberg could have single handedly funded bringing us all Broadband Internet …. but let’s wonder what he did with all that money that Verizon gave to him in 2010 and 2011. It was only 18.1 Million Dollars.


    Well all I have to say is IBEC tried to bring us something that no-one else has, and no-one else probably will during my life-time.

    Back to dial-up and stone-age internet.

    Thanks Mr. Seidenberg and Mrs. Mother Nature.

  5. Hey Erik,

    Having sat on the advisory board I got to hear a lot of the progress and back and forth. There are companies that will be interested, the specifics just haven’t been hammered out. But the construction is taking place and it’s happening. I won’t be foolish to think there won’t be delays. There will be. But by summer some people should be able to use this. There’s a hard timeline on this to get the funding so it has a pretty fast tracked pace. Though I doubt Verizon will be one of the companies as I simply think they don’t like the fact they aren’t a monopoly anymore when it comes to this service. My hunch. 🙂

  6. Are there any options available other than dial-up at this point? I haven’t heard anything good about satellite–expensive and unreliable. Does anyone know a low-cost dial-up provider that doesn’t require a long-term contract?

    I just bought a new computer and it doesn’t even have a built-in modem for dial-up. I have one on order.

    I have to give IBEC credit for trying to provide high speed internet to unserved areas. It was a rough ride at times but the system had actually stabilized and although not great speeds–at least five times better than dial-up.

    Guess I’ll be hanging out a lot at places with wi-fi–have to get a laptop first. Kaching-Kaching. Kaching.

  7. I am an IBEC customer at home and have been very disappointed with their service. It was better then dial-up though. I would like to remind everyone that the Nelson Memorial Library in Lovingston does offer internet service for our patrons including wireless.

  8. Here is a bit more information and background, with some quotes from two of the involved utilities. There are also utilities in several other states that were left high and dry. When ARRL contacted the French Broad EMC, they infomed it that although this letter had been sent out on December 23, FBEMC had not learned that the system was going down until January 3. Those that profess to care so deeply about Rural America could have given this customer a heads up instead of letting him get blindsided by customer calls on the first workday of the year. The statistics about the number of FBEMC customers that signed up are also rather telling.

    It would be interesting to hear from some of the IBEC system users, because as I was doing field tests in IBEC systems, a few local residents confided in me that the system was not working well, at least some of the time. This is not surprising, because the thought that overhead power lines can work as well as carefully engineered Ethernet cableing is simply not scientific. Access BPL, whether for Internet or for smart-grid applications cannot be made to work reliably over distances greater than the width of a few buildings.

    The news that fiber is being installed in these areas is good, because as web sites become more and more complex, “five times dialup” speed is still *way* too slow to be viable. Investing in a technology that is already behind the power curve is a poor alternative to investing in the technology that can and will keep up with the demands of the future.

  9. I have helped 5 ibec broadband customers get back on line with high speed wireless Internet. If a Verizon cellphone works at your house i can help with a alternative to dialup 540-236-2979

  10. [to Tommy – More in-depth about shut-down would be valuable here. Some ?’s to look into I’ll put in the below response to Ed Hare, W1RFIG (above). Glad to see though that you have healthy skepticism about future services. You must be a small “c” conservative, as I’ve heard you lean that way. I think the biggest players in all industries cry and whine when their monpolies are threatened. Hence the breakdown in governing we have now.]
    Ed Hare, W1RFIG, your group, ARRL (initials unknown, calling itself “the national association for amateur radio) cites you, as their Laboratory Manager, with saying that “IBEC’s closure is good news” (to quote their site). Putting any broader (and perhaps valid) debates aside, I have to say that your post’s review of facts appear to be a view from a jaundiced eye. Your indictment of a system against which your organisation, over a year ago, filed a complaint with the FCC seems pretty disingenuous in light of this conflict with your special interests.
    Nevertheless, as a supporter of rural cooperative endeavors and an IBEC customer, I will address some of your points:
    1.About short notice to customers – though I’m disappointed, it seems like 4 weeks+/- notice is about right. It’s enough time to find some alternative but not so long that it cuts their own throat as to revenues to cover as many of their obligations as they can. Your gushing about French Broad Co-op (NOT the customer here, as you state, but the utility) being “blindsided”, as if you care, could not be – they only have 200 customers! Which is why . . .
    2. the “rather telling fact” is that these systems are deployed in small increments, as we here in Nelson County have experienced; first an experimental rollout (Colleen), then a modest expansion into an area with a broader market base – to gain a much needed revenue stream to pay for itself (Faber, Martin’s Store, Nellysford, Greenfield and Afton). How many customers from Nelson were there, one county out of 14 covered by CVEC (which has 33,000 total customers)?
    3.In your over two years of field yests, many customers experienced some outages early on (About the “few” complainers: dissatisfied customers are far more likely to voice an opinion than satisfied ones). There were a few technical issues but many involved the great difficulties coordinating the service with the T-1 carrier and servicer (AT&T and Verizon). Sure, equipment failures (incl. at least one local T-1 by Verizon), testing, system reconfiguring etc., were early problems that made for frustrating service outages, but I’ve had dependable service for all but the first 4 mos. or so (I am excluding a couple of outages that occurred a year or so ago. These happened at the same time that Verizon was having so many problems with dropped service all across it’s network, throughout the country. Is that implicated here?)
    4.How can you assert that bpl does not work past “the width of a few buildings”? I’m over 1 1/2 miles on a dirt private lane and then two more miles to the T-1 “injection” point. And there is no ethernet cabling here, well engineered or not – nothing scientific about that!
    5.5 times dial-up speed depends on who’s measuring. I was never able to connect at more than 44Kbps but it was mostly 33Kbps or some 38Kbps. When last I checked I could not acheive greater than 24Kbps if that. So, my IBEC service is for 256Kbps, over 10 times what dial-up is. Moreover, when speed-checked at IBEC srvc. and at speedtest.com(?sitename), the download speed was over 400 Kbps, w/upload at just under 200Kbps (a typical discrepancy, I’m told). That’s what, 16 times dial-up? And, I had the option of getting 1Mbps service from IBEC, making it 35-40 times faster.
    Anyway, IBEC is dead. A lot of its problems were the direct result of terrible weather: flooding during our deployment, snowmaggedon that winter, and finally the tornado disasters of last year in its home state (and largest deployment) of Alabama. But the real death-knell of IBEC has been the competing, sometimes opposing, interests of corporations and a disinterested legislative and regulatory bureaucracy. The foot-dragging and bureaucracy by Verizon seemed to be the cause of much of the early delays in deployment. I can’t see that they could have had much, if any, incentive to act with diligence or expedience. The insurance claim refusal was a huge “blow” (though the insurer didn’t cause any tornados). I don’t know the facts of the case, but I don’t think that a claim would have been submitted had IBEC not believed it was covered. From this came a cascade of financial events: an investor reneging on a commitment, their assistance requests to their federal credtor, RUS, turned down, and so on.
    Most dismaying was the withholding of any federal help that was already available for such projects. Read the 2nd-to-last paragraph of IBEC’s letter to the customers (click on the lower of the two notices above in this news post to enlarge). This, combined with the number of commenters above who don’t understand that MANY places in Nelson have no broadband alternative except satellite which is: not quite as fast as IBEC (I’ve heard); not available when it’s cloudy,raining,snowing etc.; costs more (is there a contract as well?); and, to allow a clear shot from dish to satellite, may require the removal of trees (adding cost) or even, in some cases, mountaintop removal (HA! Thats really gonna cost ya!). Finding a new service will be a choice between bad choice for awhile yet.

  11. Thanks for chiming in BIll. Though I am not sure why my political leanings have to do with anything, I was at one time a conservative, still am, just not s republican conservative. I think both democrats and republicans pretty much have the same agenda. But that’s for another discussion. I can’t disagree with ARRL’s position on this. IMO, BPL was never a viable technology for providing reliable widespread true broadband internet. BPL in Nelson never met the criteria of real broadband. Perhaps it reached speeds of now defunct ISDN lines of the old days, but it never even got to speeds of 1mbps. The lowest end of the standard for DSL and other modes of broadband. Another problem, BPL in a rural setting. In a metro area, or even small towns, the electrical systems/grid that BPL relies on is in better shape. Not to say CVEC has a bad system, to the contrary, but sheer geography in Nelson plays a large part. Having an insulator cracked here or there, which would have little hinderance on delivering electrical power, plays havoc with delivering a clean broadband signal. The same could be said for transformers, etc. BPL did certainly ply havoc with amateur radio bands for sure.

    Overall, I put this IBEC project in the bucket with the Solyndra’s of the day. Great ideas, some merit, but almost no ability to sustain themselves with being propped up by the government, and even then they generally don’t make it because their goal is to high for the areas they implement in.

  12. Okay, I just found out about this, sorry Tommy I haven’t been the “Life” as thoroughly as I should. No notice from IBEC by mail or email. This is tragic news. Theoretically, there will be less people with “broadband” by the time they get the NC trunk dug and connected. Only providers that can risk the cost of running fiber, getting towers approved, and getting enough customers to cover their overhead will be available to the more rural parts of the county. It will be like it was before electricity. Some county customers will be lucky enough not to live in a hollow and they will be in “line of sight” of these towers that are proposed. You may get some connectivity without line of sight, but it will be limited, spotty, and depends on seasonal growth. Mark my words, the loss of a provider like IBEC will mean that most of us will not have access to “broadband” unless you have satellite, for a number of years. I had satellite before IBEC since 2001 and I’m not going back to that rip-off. I went through four $100 upgrades in 8 years and paid $70 dollars a month for it (after buying the original for $200). I still think that the money would have been better spent if we were installing fiber from the existing Verizon trunk. But I will say that without knowing or seeing the “plan” or its justification, I’m in a dark hollow. I’ve had a weather station and webcam up for years now in Rockfish, but I feel that is going to end for a long while. And because of the load time of spectacular pictures and video, I will be further in the dark because I won’t be able to read the “Life”.

  13. I live in Indiana and we just lost our service at the end of January. I really liked the BPL/IBEC service. I only live about 15 miles south of Indianapolis, but outside of the city limits of Mooresville. We have nothing out here. AOL is so unbelievably slow and I’m talking 5 minutes to open a page. I am so upset about losing this service and having to go back to dial up. I as well as many others can’t afford satellite for internet service.

  14. Well…. last night I made the call to the dial-up provider. This is quite painful to say the least.

    I wish there was a stop-gap solution until the new service is up and running. Which brings me to another question; How will this reach individual homes? By wire (fiber) or by radio? Because folks like me who have zero cell service at home might be wondering how a non hard-wired solution will even reach us.


  15. Erik,
    My understanding is this will be delivered in a variety of ways. Some will get it by direct connection. If you are lucky enough to be near the backbone like our office, you could conceivably have true end to end fiber. Others will have mostly fiber, then perhaps some copper to bridge. The ones that are too far away will be bridged via wireless towers that are being constructed as we speak. Tommy

  16. Erik,

    I would say many folks should start getting service by the fall of this year. Not great news for people needing it now, but still lots of infrastructure to build out between now and then. Tommy

  17. So glad I bailed on IBEC two years ago! I was part of the original (Colleen) setup and it never worked…ever…reliably. I’m so entirely unsurprised by this.


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