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U.S. fiber-enabled homes double in 2004

Availability of fiber optic data connections shoots up as more phone companies--and ambitious cities--get in on the act.

The number of homes that can get broadband Internet through ultra-fast fiber optic lines more than doubled from last year, according to a study.

As of October, the number of homes that can subscribe to fiber optic services jumped to 413,000, up from 180,300 from the same period in 2003. Of them, 146,500 were subscribing to fiber lines, up from 64,700 from the previous year.

The study, conducted by industry marketing research firm Render Vanderslice noted that Baby Bell phone giants such as Verizon Communications, independent phone companies and municipal efforts were the main builders of these fiber networks.

Fiber stretches

Carriers are marketing fiber optic services to more homes--and making more sales.

Homes offered fiberHomes subscribing
to fiber
Oct. 2004413,000146,000
Oct. 2003180,00064,000
Source: Render Vanderslice

Fiber optics is considered a powerful pipeline that can serve data at the rate of 100mbps. Since fiber lines carry packets of digital information, they can handle multiple digital video streams, high-definition TV, Internet phone service and fast Internet access.

Indeed, Verizon has begun an ambitious plan to lace its regions with a fiber service called "Fios," which will allow it to eventually offer video, voice and data over the same line. Verizon is banking on fiber as the way to deliver high-bandwidth services into peoples' homes and eventually offer many digital services to compete with cable companies. Other Bells such as SBC are spending billions to upgrade their networks with fiber up to neighborhood "nodes."

Meanwhile, small cities outside the immediate expansion plans of the Bells and cable giants have tried taking matters into their own hands. Cities in predominantly rural areas such as Utah and western Pennsylvania have begun building fiber lines into peoples' homes. Despite opposition from phone and cable companies, these cities hope to build for themselves services that surpass the slower cable and digital subscriber line offerings available in much of the rest of the country.

The study added that more than 80 percent of the lines deployed offer the "triple play" package of voice, video and data.