Photonics, computer and communications network providers have formed a consortium to promote and accelerate the deployment of optical fiber to the home in North America. The Fiber-to-the-Home Council, announced last month, will meet this month to elect a board of directors and set an action agenda. In the early 1990s, communications analysts predicted that the only way to provide people with broadband access to networks was to bring individual optical fibers to each home, or at least to each neighborhood. Although some homes and neighborhoods are fibered, the bulk of us connect to the world through copper wires. The reasons are fourfold, said Doug Wrede, director of business development at Optical Solutions Inc. First, photonic components have been much more expensive than the copper alternatives. Second, because the component costs were too high, no one was developing system solutions. Third, consumer demand for broadband communications access arose only recently. And fourth, because of those first three reasons, communications service providers could serve customers with older technologies. Now, he said, photonic device costs are dropping to levels that are near or equal to those of copper, which should enable fiber-to-the-home installations. However, many engineering and system manufacturers are not aware of the change. "That's what the council is all about: Individually, as organizations, we're just manufacturers or service providers or construction engineering firms, all with their little piece of the story," Wrede said. "As the Fiber-to-the-Home Council, we can speak to the whole deployment, and we can do it with some power behind it." Wrede said that officials at his company and at Alcatel and Corning Inc. developed the council's strategy, concept and objectives over the last several months before pitching it in a conference call to a broad cross section of photonics and communications-related companies. The list of companies joining the founders includes Adesta Communications, AFL Telecommunications, American Power Conversion, Atlantic Engineering Group, CopperCom Inc., Financial Strategies Group LLC, iWired Inc., Lightwave Communications Systems Inc., Network Telco Inc., Nexans, Pirelli Communications Cables & Systems NA, Science Applications International Corp., Sumitomo Electric Lightwave, Team Fishel, Wave7 Optics Inc. and World Wide Packets.