Small, independent telcos, broadband service providers, cable companies and municipalities have brought “gigabit-enabled, all-fiber service to a total of more than 1.4 million” homes across North America–about one-quarter of all fiber-to-the-home connections on the North American continent, according to a study conducted by RVA Market Research for the Fiber-to-the-Home Council.

FTTH is now available 16% North American homes, RVA found, with 5.8 million homes receiving some form of triple play service (e.g. TV, high-speed Internet and/or phone service) via FTTH.

Verizon’s $23 billion FTTH buildout had been the primary driving force behind the growth of FTTH, but with Verizon’s program winding down, small, local exchange carriers, cable companies, municipalities and other ISPs have picked up the slack, according to the FTTH Council.

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“Fiber to the home is now being deployed by more than 750 service providers across North America, with most of those being small, independent telephone companies that are replacing their copper lines with end-to-end fiber in order to ensure their future competitiveness as broadband providers,” according to a news release.

“With Verizon approaching the end of its initial FiOS expansion, we are seeing a lot of small local exchange carriers in the U.S. who are ready to pick up the slack, along with some cable TV companies deploying RFoG [Radio Frequency over Glass] and some larger Canadian companies going FTTH,” said Joe Savage, president of the FTTH Council, a non-profit organization of more than 200 companies and organizations dedicated to expanding the deployment of all-fiber, next-generation networks.

“To continue to meet the rapidly growing bandwidth requirements for emerging applications and services, these companies know that they have to ‘future-proof’ their networks by running fiber all the way to the premises – and that’s why we are seeing all this activity,” he added.

More than 65% of small, independent telcos who haven’t upgraded to FTTH yet reported they would “very likely do so” in the future. Another 11% indicated they were “somewhat likely” to do so. More than 85% of those that have upgraded intend to add more direct fiber connections going forward, according to RVA’s findings.

It helps that smaller, independents are seeing very good responses from the communities in which they operate, as does the federal government’s broadband stimulus program, according to RVA and the FTTH Council.

“A common element of these small ILEC’s and the municipal FTTH systems is that when they roll out their all-fiber service they get remarkably great take-rates, averaging above 50 percent,”observed Mike Render, RVA LLC’s president, referring to the percentage of households that subscribe to the new service after receiving information about it.

“In many cases, these small telephone companies are longtime family-owned businesses that are deeply involved in local affairs and are responsive to their community needs for faster broadband as a key to future economic development. That’s why so many of these companies are looking to get into FTTH or expand their deployments,” he said.

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