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The worldwide demand for broadband communications is being met in many places by installed single-mode fiber networks. However, there is still a significant "first-mile" problem, which seriously limits the availability of broadband Internet access. Free-space optical wireless communications has emerged as a viable technology for bridging gaps in existing high-data-rate communications networks, and as a temporary backbone for rapidly deployable mobile wireless communication infrastructure. In this article we describe research designed to improve the performance of such networks along terrestrial paths, including the effects of atmospheric turbulence, obscuration, transmitter and receiver design, and topology control.