The illegal hydroponics industry can potentially be weeded out if the rollout of Broadband over Power Lines technology becomes increasingly more prevalent. But catching dope growers is just one of many and varied benefits that can be delivered to service providers by this technology.
While most Australians are law abiding and pay for the power they use, the theft of electricity from the power grid is a problem. Chief among these thieves are those involved in the illegal drug trade.
"Hydroponics in ceilings requires high heat lamps.... which chew up power," said Geoff Fietz, manager of telecommunications enterprises at Country Energy, referring to the illegal marijuana cultivation industry scattered amongst the population.
He tells an anecdote about a house which burnt down in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. When the police turned up they saw the hydroponics equipment smouldering in the ceiling. Not only had they discovered an illegal drug plantation; power was being siphoned as well.
"It's real. It happens," said Fietz.
Police around the world know that increased use of electricity is an indicator of the presence of an indoor hydroponics plantation. Uncovering this increased usage is difficult when illegal connections are used to siphon off the electricity is difficult.
As part of the equipment rollout for BPL, utilities also install network management devices which can detect the amount of power being used on the power lines, and who is using it. So, while consumers are getting broadband Internet, service providers are getting information of a different kind.
"This strengthens the argument for BPL to address this issue," said Fietz.