IBM Corp has made a major commitment to delivering broadband internet over ordinary power lines. The method is aimed at providing fast internet connections to regions that currently don’t have other broadband options, particularly in rural communities. The company announced Wednesday that it had reached a $9.6 million deal with International Broadband Electric Communications. IBM will use International Broadband’s equipment to deliver broadband over power line (BPL) service to the customers of rural electric cooperatives. See stories here and here .

“Americans in rural areas of the country trail their urban and suburban counterparts in broadband availability,” said IBEC CEO Scott Lee, in a statement. “This capability will play a crucial role in rural health, education and economic development, while closing the digital divide that exists between well served and underserved America.” IBM estimates there are over 900 electrical cooperatives in the U.S., providing service that accounts for 45% of the country’s total power grid.

“The technology is important but what’s really important is this is a seminal moment in the delivery of broadband services to rural customers,” said Bill Moroney, the head of the Utilities Telecom Council, an industry trade group. “Here’s a beginning and really a great leap forward.” Others are less enthusiastic, pointing to a large number of companies that have promised broadband access over power lines, but have been stymied by technical problems.

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