More than 50% of U.S. homes now have access to fiber, FBA says

A new report from the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) found fiber internet is now available to more than half of U.S. households, passing 51.5% of primary homes.

The survey, which was conducted by RVA LLC Market Research and Consulting on FBA’s behalf, said 2023 set a “new record” for the highest annual fiber-to-the-home growth, as network operators passed nine million new homes this year alone.

All told, the number of FTTH homes passed that are being marketed to consumers increased 13% this year to 78 million homes, the report indicated. Excluding second or third passings of the same home, fiber broadband now reaches 69 million unique U.S. households.

And deployments are likely to pick up. RVA estimated the total available market remaining for FTTH could stand at over 100 million homes (including second and third passings). So, fiber deployments are likely to continue for the next decade “at or above the current momentum.”

As for which providers have the highest share of fiber passings, the report noted incumbent Tier 1 fiber providers still lead with nearly 65% of homes passed, followed by Tier 2 and Tier 3 ISPs (11.3%), private competitive providers/CLECs (9.9%) and cable operators (9.1%).

Municipalities and rural electric providers hold the smallest share of homes passed with fiber at 2.7% and 2.2%, respectively. But FBA pointed out rural electric providers have “quickly” entered the fiber broadband market within the last five years and now almost matches FTTH passings from municipalities.

Interestingly, the report also found fiber passes “a growing percentage” of short-term rentals and second homes.

“Year after year, our research demonstrates the growing preference for fiber and the increased success of the fiber broadband ecosystem in extending the reach of high-quality broadband networks,” stated Deborah Kish, FBA VP of Research and Workforce Development.

But challenges remain for fiber providers, especially as they get ready to apply for funding from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program.

According to RVA’s survey, the biggest challenge providers cited is labor availability and quality of contractors, followed by rising construction costs, materials concerns, permitting and BEAD regulations.

In a recent conversation with Fierce Telecom. FBA President Gary Bolton said the broadband industry is “at a huge investment cycle” for fiber, and deployments are likely “to keep going up.”

As for the broadband labor shortage, he commented, “It’ll get worse before it gets better,” especially as “BEAD money starts flowing and the projects start to get going.”

FBA estimates over 200,000 additional fiber technicians are needed over the next five years to support all fiber projects across the U.S., Bolton added.