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A tunable dispersion compensating filter based on a multistage optical all-pass filter with a microelectromechanical (MEM) actuated variable reflector and a thermally tuned cavity is described. A two-stage device was demonstrated with a tuning range of /spl plusmn/100 ps/nm, 50-GHz passband and a group delay ripple less than /spl plusmn/3 ps. The device has negligible polarization dependence and is suitable for single or multiple channel compensation. An off-axis, two-fiber package with an excess loss <2 dB/stage avoids the need for a circulator. By cascading four stages, a passband to channel spacing ratio of 0.8 is obtained that allows both 40 Gb/s nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) and return-to-zero (RZ) signals to be compensated.