Broadband over powerline (BPL) has been cited by supports of the incumbent telco/cable duopoly as a third line enabling competition in closed markets: BPL is a real technology, but it's also been a strawman in the municipal network debate. Along with arguments such as "DSL is available in 97 percent of ZIP codes in the U.S."--which ignores how big rural ZIP code regions are and only requires availability of a single DSL line--those opposed to municipal involvement in broadband state that BPL will provide another line of competition.
Ignore the fact that many electrical utilities are owned by municipal or public entities, thus not being an option to the folks that eschew governmentally run broadband. And ignore the fact that years after early technology was available, only a handful of locations have more than trials running. The dotcom collapse made many utilities leery of expanding beyond their core business.
Now we find that there may in fact be enough competition to forestall BPL. The PPL Corp. of Allentown, Pa., was a leader in BPL. But they said, according to an article in The Morning Call, that even with 1.3 million customers across Pennsylvania, the scale of operations was too small for the marginal return possible given current broadband pricing.
Manassas, Virg., by contrast, has a publicly-owned utility with a compact market and a private partner--COMTek--that specializes in telecom. PPL turned to wireless for the last-few-feet connection from the transformer on a pole to a customer's house; COMTek and Manassas opted for broadband-to-the-outlet. This latter approach is more complicated because it means installed a bypass around every transformer. The step-down voltage degrades the information carrier, otherwise.
This article is fascinating because it's so free of the sniping and extra-technical (that is, outside of technical) issues that often dog these kinds of deployments.