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Electric Dreams.

Is electrical wiring the answer for home networks?

WHILE CONSUMER DEMAND FOR SPEEDY Internet service and in-home networking has created a brisk market for structured wiring, the $2,000 or so cost per home can make some homeowners and builders balk. But Dallas-based Media Fusion says it will offer an inexpensive alternative later this year using standard electrical wiring to link any two computers, whether in adjacent rooms or at opposite ends of the continent.

Attempts to send data through electric wires have always been hampered byline static, voltage spikes, and the fact that transformers scramble the signals. Media Fusion chief scientist Luke Stewart claims that the company's new Sub Carrier Modulation technology, which he invented, is immune to these problems. The reason? Rather than flowing through the wires, data rides on a microwave signal placed on the wires' magnetic fields. The company will generate the signal at a Mississippi substation; when a customer boots a computer, a supercomputer at the substation will sense it and open a data path. Stewart says a customer whose Internet service provider (ISP) is on the system will receive a direct link to the ISP's server, with enough bandwidth to easily handle movies on demand.

Media Fusion wants to license the technology to electric, phone, and cable companies. Builders need only outfit each home with a $60 outlet connector, or "night light," that includes electric outlets, phone jacks, and cable plugs--all leading to the electrical wiring. Installing one night light per home would network all the homes in a development. Adding more to a given home would create an in-home network.

Skeptical? You're in good company. One naysayer is Grayson Evans, president of The Training Department, a Tucson, Ariz., technology training firm. According to Evans, Stewart's claims violate basic physics--saying that you can write data on a wire's magnetic field independent of the electric field is like saying you've built something that's not subject to gravity.

"It's only a matter of time until someone brings an incredible fraud suit against this company," Evans predicts.

Other experts are more ambivalent. "He's either the greatest huckster since P.T. Barnum or he has invented a technology that will make the AOL-Time Warner merger meaningless," says Parks Associates' Kurt Scherf, referring to AOL's recent acquisition of Time Warner's data networks. But Scherf adds that you can never say never. "Nothing surprises me anymore," he adds.

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Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
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