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Fiber Broadband

Frequently Asked Questions

"Fiber Broadband" is on everybody's mind right now.  But what is fiber broadband? Or just broadband? FOA gets those questions all the time, so we thought it would be good to do a FAQs page  - frequently asked questions - on fiber broadband.

The FOA also has a page on Resources for Fiber Broadband with links to resources for those interested in building fiber broadband networks.

We have also written a book that explains all about fiber broadband and how fiber optics provides the communications we all depend on today.

Fiber Optic Association Guide To Fiber Broadband

More about The Fiber Optic Association Guide To Fiber Broadband  
In paperback or Kindle. Order from Amazon or your local bookseller.

What is broadband?
Broadband is FAST Internet access - fast enough to use for everyday needs like work, school, healthcare, entertainment, shopping, personal connections and dealing with the government or other large organizations.

The definition of broadband has changed over the years, starting at 4 megabits/second in 1997 and reaching 1 gigabit/second when fiber to the home was popularized by Google Fiber around 2012. Practically, you need around 100 megabits/second for most of today's applications.

"Fiber broadband" means broadband delivered on fiber optics to the home (FTTH.) Fiber has practically unlimited speed for Internet connections. Connect a home with fiber broadband today and it's "future proof."

Who needs it? Why?

Everybody - for:
  • Work
  • School
  • Healthcare, Telemedicine
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Personal connections
  • Dealing with governments and large organizations
The pandemic showed how important broadband is to everyone. You need broadband's speed for video conferences and online school, telemedicine, etc.

How is broadband delivered in the US?
  • Cable modems (~80 million)
  • Fiber to the home (~25 million)
  • DSL (~10 million)
  • Cellular wireless (~300 million, but is it broadband?)
  • WiFi wireless (small numbers)
  • Satellite wireless (small numbers)
In the UAE, the telco Etisalat (an FOA approved training center) has reached ~98% FTTH connections.

Rank the delivery methods above by bandwidth:
Broadband bandwidth
Now you can see why "fiber broadband" is the preferred way to provide broadband. Connect a home with fiber today and it's "future proof." And no, 5G cellular is not comparable to fiber, despite the advertising! Cellular 5G and WiFi 6 are comparable because they use the same transmission protocols, and under ideal conditions can achieve 1 Gb/s. Most FTTH GPON networks in use already provide 2.5 Gb/s down and 1.25 Gb/s up,and some networks have already moved to 10 Gb/s. The federal BEAD funding program states fiber broadband  (FTTH) is expected for its future proofing.

Who provides broadband?

  • CATV companies (~80 million subscribers)
  • Telcos (~30 million, not counting cellular)
  • ISPs
  • Cities - municipal broadband services
  • Coops  - electrical or telco
  • Private providers (real estate owners, venture-funded investors, etc.)

Broadband began in 1997 with CATV and cable modems. Telcos tried to use old phone wires and failed. Those who invested in fiber optics early have solved the problem.

Who provides broadband on fiber optics?

  • CATV companies  - only fiber to the curb and coax to the home
  • Telcos - Except Verizon, have been slow to offer FTTH, many are now focused on 5G cellular
  • ISPs - Google Fiber and many independents
  • Cities - municipal broadband services like Chattanooga, TN, the first gigabit city.
  • Coops  - electrical or telco mostly small towns and rural areas
  • Private providers (real estate owners, venture-funded investors, etc.) Solana Beach, CA - the first "terabit city"
Basically everybody. In rural areas, coops were responsible for bringing electrical power to small towns and farms in the 1930s to 1950s. Many now are doing the same for FTTH. Cities are thinking about broadband as a utility like power, water and even roads. FOA has been helping "Do-It-Yourself" FTTH projects since 2015 and they have been very successful.

Obstacles to providing fiber broadband
  • Cost - around $500 to $2500 per subscriber depending on geography - urban/rural
  • Incumbent service providers - don't want to make the investment and don't want competitors to either -
  • Lobbyists - 19 states have laws preventing public broadband written by lobbyists for incumbents. Lobbyists often show up at town meetings trying to stop local efforts to build FTTH networks. Trade associations are big lobbying organizations.
  • Misinformation - from incumbents - well funded lobbyists focused on confusing community groups - sometimes even creating "astroturf organizations" - fake "grassroots groups" - trying to confuse people. We also have a problem of "Fiber to the press release" - incumbents claiming they offer fiber broadband if they connect one or two users, confusing the broadband coverage maps used by the government.
  • Supply chain - we need more manufacturing capacity of fiber optic cable and hardware for FTTH
  • Workforce - simply not enough qualified fiber techs
  • Speculators - all that government money attracts 'em but many lack the experience to deliver, will take the money and not deliver.

Nobody in the US can say it's the cost anymore - the federal BEAD funding has a pool of $43.5 billion to make FTTH happen. Add the required matching funds and we're talking $60billion, probably enough to connect 30-50 million homes if the money is spent wisely.

Now we need legitimate service providers and a competent workforce, which FOA is working on now.

Organizations working on fiber broadband projects may find this fiber broadband resource page useful in starting a project and finding funding.

FOA also has a page devoted to rural broadband and its unique requirepents.

FOA FTTH/Broadband Resources

Note: Most of the material in the links below assumes the reader has a general knowledge of fiber optics and fiber optic networks. Id you need some background, we recommend you start with two self-study courses at Fiber U, FOA's free online learning site.

Introduction To Fiber Optics In Communications  

Basic Fiber Optics  

Articles from the FOA Newsletter

FOA Newsletter

March 2022 Is Rural Only Farms?

February 2022 Helping Make Rural Broadband Possible -
New FOA Technical/Educational Materials For Those Planning Rural Broadband

January 2022 - California Announces 18 Middle Mile Projects To Bridge Digital Divide (mostly rural)

June 2021 - FTTH Special Issue  (FTTH Tech Update covering new equipment and network architectures for rural FTTH.

November/December 2021 - Fiber To The Village in Nepal, $Billions For Broadband In US (But don't hold your breath!)

August, 2021   - Rural FTTH Special Issue

July 2021 - Broadband Internet in California, California Broadband Council report

March 2021 - Can Tapping Fiber Reduce Cost?  How Many Fibers? Optimal cable Size. 

FOA FTTH Handbook

FOA's FTTH Handbook: We've gathered all our information on FTTH from the FOA Guide and past issues of the FOA Newsletter and edited it into a 112 page "FTTH Handbook." We even added new sections on planning, designing and managing FTTH Projects. An entire chapter is devoted to DIY (do-it-yourself) FTTH projects in rural areas. English and Spanish editions.
The Fiber Optic Association Fiber To The Home Handbook is available from Amazon in print and Kindle editions.
La Asociación de Fibra Óptica Manual de Fibra Hasta el Hogar : Para Planificadores, Gestores, Diseñadores, Instaladores y Operadores De FTTH  Amazon

FOA Guide
The FOA Guide is FOA's extensive knowledge base on fiber optics, with almost 1,000 pages of technical information. It's written by FOA's worldwide network of technical advisors and is non-commercial, just reliable technical information from experienced fiber techs, many of whom are teaching the subject.

Here are some topics related to broadband:

FTTH (Fiber To The Home)                                     
Fiber to the home (FTTH) Overview,   
FTTH Introduction
FTTH Architectures,
FTTH PON Standards, Specifications and Protocols,
FTTH Network Design
FTTH Installation
FTTH Customer Premises Installation  
FTTH Testing  ,
FTTH Case Studies: Do-It-Yourself FTTH  
FTTH Project Management   

There is also a section on Fiber For Wireless Networks. that covers both cellular and WiFi networks.                                 

Fiber U

Fiber U is FOA's Free Online Learning Site, with over two dozen free self-study courses starting with the Basics of Fiber Optics and including a number of courses on technical skills and applications of fiber optics.

Free Online "FTTH" Course on Fiber U

Free Online "Fiber For Wireless" Course on Fiber U

Fiber U online courses
Take the Fiber U FTTH course and Certificate Test FREE
Fiber U self-study courses themselves have always been free, but we have charged for the Fiber U Certificate of Completion test which uses an online testing service. So everyone can take advantage of all the new and updated FTTH materials we've created, FOA will offer the testing for the Fiber U Certificate of Completion for the Fiber U FTTx self-study course free to everyone completing the course. Tell your employees, customers, everybody!


Designing FTTH Networks? If you are involved in the design of FTTH networks but new to fiber optics, start with the Fiber U Fiber Optic Network Design course then take the Fiber U FTTx self-study course.

FOA YouTube Channel
FOA Videos On YouTube

FOA has a YouTube channel with over 100 videos on fiber optics, including 70+ lectures and many technical instructional videos. Including are these videos on Fiber Optics:

FOA's YouTube Channel:
Lecture 25: FTTx - Fiber To The Home, Premises, Curb, Business, etc.(Overview)
Lecture 63 FTTH Network Architectures  
Lecture 64 FTTH Passive Optical Networks (PONs) 
Lecture 65 FTTH Network Design 
Lecture 66 FTTH Network Installation and Test  
Lecture 70 Rural Broadband- Obstacles and Opportunities  


Contact the FOA  

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