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BellSouth, the third largest regional US telecommunications group, said on Thursday that it plans to accelerate its deployment of fibre-optic network technology following recent positive regulatory and court rulings.

Like Verizon Communications and SBC Communications which have both been more outspoken about their fibre deployments, Bell South has been quietly rolling out a technology called fibre to the curb (FTTC) that will enable it to deliver advanced services including IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) and video to its customers in direct competition with cable operators.

On Thursday BellSouth told the Federal Communications Commission that it plans to deploy fiber to almost 60 per cent more locations in 2005 than it did in 2004 signaling its determination to accelerate its push into the market for broadband 'tripe play' voice, data and video services. Last year BellSouth said installations of its FTTC technology were 30 percent ahead of 2003.

Atlanta-based BellSouth said the move followed the FCC's decision last year that fiber-to-the-curb was functionally equivalent to a similar technology called fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) being deployed by Verizon. The elimination of the regulatory distinction between the two fibre technologies meant that BellSouth could invest in its chosen method of fiber deployment without governmental mandates forcing it to make its local fiber loops available to competitors.

In addition, BellSouth noted that earlier this week, the US Supreme Court ruled in the so-called 'Brand X' case that cable companies were not required to share their high-speed internet access facilities with competitors.

Since then, Kevin Martin, FCC chairman, has said that the FCC needs to move quickly to establish regulatory parity between telecommunications and cable companies that are providing broadband service implying that current regulator requirements will be eased.

"By rejecting the CLEC petitions and moving quickly to bring regulatory parity for high-speed broadband providers, the FCC can spark even more investment and faster delivery of innovative services to customers," said Herschel Abbott, BellSouth vice president governmental affairs.

The company noted that although it has installed fiber in many branches of its network, the rate of deployment rapidly increased once the commission's action removed the disincentive. BellSouth' detailed its accelerated deployment plans in a filing with the FCC opposing requests by several competitive local exchange carrier for the Commission to reconsider its earlier decision.

"The radical rewriting of the fiber-to-the-curb order proposed by CLECs runs the risk of paralysing the ability of incumbents to evolve their networks and implement new, advanced technologies," BellSouth said.

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