This paper addresses power-line communication (PLC) for automated metering infrastructure (AMI) and automated meter reading (AMR) applications in North America, with specific focus on the physical layer. FCC regulations in the U.S. permit power line communication systems to use the band from 9 kHz to roughly 500 kHz. This paper presents channel and noise characteristics in this band, based on field tests. The main challenge in communicating in this band is severe signal attenuation by service transformers. In rural areas, these transformers supply eight or fewer end points on average.