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Fiber optic systems are now being considered for the "last mile" of the telecommunications network, the distribution portion of the subscriber loop. Early promoters have emphasized the enormous potential of fiber as an information pipeline. They view fiber as the key to revolutionizing the way in which we receive and interact with data in the developing information society. The investment of both technical and economic resources required to develop and deploy fiber optic systems for residential subscriber loops, however, will demand real economic returns. This will dictate new approaches to both the technology and the business strategies that strive to bring the system costs in line with the value of the information being carried. These approaches must also recognize the competitive service environment that is developing in the area of local distribution. This paper considers some of the major issues currently affecting the development of subscriber loop applications for fiber optics and their impact on technical and market requirements.