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Texas utility plans to offer high-speed Net on lines

DALLAS -- The utility TXU Corp. said yesterday it will offer high-speed Internet service over power lines to several million Texans as part of a $150 million project aimed at improving its ability to monitor the power grid.

The ''smart grid" buildout will enable what would be the nation's largest broadband-over-power line Internet rollout.

The 10-year partnership with Current Communications Group Inc., a privately held company in Germantown, Md., is not expected to yield residential Internet service until the second half of 2006.

Once completed, the grid will let TXU check consumption remotely and pinpoint problems before they become major blackouts.

A spokesman, Chris Schein, said Internet access is secondary to the smart grid capabilities.

''We really believe that what end users are going to appreciate is when the spring storms hit and they don't have an outage," he said. ''Or if they do have an outage, it's not as long as it was."

Proponents say broadband-over-power line technology, or BPL, could be especially significant for rural areas, where high-speed Internet access has lagged due to the higher costs to telecommunications and cable companies of serving sparsely populated areas.

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