WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 /PRNewswire/––The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), and Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council today assembled a panel of experts from fiber communities to discuss the current implementation, future and potential of FTTH technology in the United States.

FTTH is an important initiative that supports and promotes the deployment of optical fiber to the homes of consumers and has emerged as a bright spot in the telecommunications industry.

According to a recent study by Render, Vanderslice and Associates, FTTH deployments are growing at a rate of more than 300 percent annually and will reach approximately one million homes by 2004. Michael Render, author of "Fiber to the Home and Optical Broadband 2002," presented the methodology and key findings of his firm's study at the event.

FTTH household penetration has just begun and will increase exponentially in the next two years, said Render. Various factors will drive demand, including the need for economic development in smaller communities and the relatively low cost of constructing a new network in rural areas.

Jon Moore, senior telecommunications engineer for the Grant County Public Utility District (GCPUD) in Washington State, discussed the development of a FTTH infrastructure in rural Grant County. The build, which is roughly one- quarter complete, is expected to reach all of the county's 36,000 homes and businesses by 2006.

Before construction of the network, dubbed "Zipp," some residents lacked even basic telephone service. Today, the region has one telephone provider, two competing digital video providers, and 19 competing Internet service providers (ISPs), each offering dedicated 100 Mbps connections.

Jeff Wick, chief operating officer of Nex-Tech, Inc., which is an award- winning independent telephone company that has overbuilt numerous small Kansas towns with FTTH, said that FTTH provides residences with affordable, state-of- the-art telecommunication services.

It also levels the playing field for small businesses by allowing them to offer new services and remain competitive with larger businesses. In the areas where it has deployed FTTH, Nex-Tech has a 90 percent take rate among customers.

James Salter, CEO of Atlantic Engineering Group in Atlanta and current president of the FTTH Council, provided an overview of his company's construction of FTTH networks in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and Bristol, Virginia. Both towns decided to build a municipal network to offer better services to residents, drive economic development and improve educational opportunities.

To date, every home and business in each town––2,200 in Kutztown and 9,100 in Bristol––has been passed with fiber. After three months of service, the Kutztown network has gained 25 percent of the market. Bristol will begin offering services this month and already has 1,600 customers on a waiting list, 97 percent of whom have requested full voice, video and data services.

Max Kipfer, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia-based OpenBand, which designs and operates FTTH networks in new home developments in Loudoun County, said that early sales have been strong in two of his company's developments, Lansdowne on the Potomac and Southern Walk at Broadlands.

According to Kipfer, nearly 50 percent of homebuyers in Landsdowne bought their homes because of access to FTTH technology, and more than 80 percent have pre-wired their residences for full home automation. EC