Google Fiber sparks competition, FCC revises CAF rules and other top stories of 2013

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Year in review 2013 FierceTelecom sean buckleyBy 

Now that we're reaching the end of the year, FierceTelecom is once again counting down the story lines that shaped the telecom industry in 2013.

One of the biggest stories in the wireline segment was how AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) responded to Google Fiber's (Nasdaq: GOOG) 1 Gbps fiber to the home (FTTH) plans. Both telcos have maintained loudly that their moves were not driven by the Internet search giant, but it's clear that they realized they needed to have a fiber-based broadband strategy in place. AT&T recently launched its U-verse with GigaPower service in Austin, while CenturyLink is moving ahead with its FTTH rollout in Omaha and Las Vegas.

Neither AT&T nor CenturyLink are limiting their FTTH desires to just one market.

Stopping short of giving any specific plans, AT&T said that the combination of Google Fiber and the buildout of more IP-based U-verse broadband via its Project VIP initiative on its hybrid copper/fiber network is giving it regulatory flexibility to pursue other FTTH deployments. Likewise, CenturyLink has continued to indicate during financial conferences that it wants to bring FTTH to other parts of its serving area. The debut of FTTH services in these markets will enable these two telcos to up the competitive ante against area cable operators such as Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Cox.

On the regulatory front, a number of notable changes. Tom Wheeler took the reins of the FCC, immediately facing two key issues: a revision to the Connect America Fund (CAF) rules for rural broadband deployment, and a long overdue proposal to revise the 1996 Telecom Act.   

By revising how the CAF can be spent, a number of the largest telcos accepted more money to bring broadband to areas that would otherwise likely never see broadband service. Overall, the FCC allocated $255 million in grants from CAF Phase I (CAF-I) to enable providers like AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier (Nasdaq: FTR) and Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) to bring service to over 400,000 homes and businesses.

Other issues that dominated the headlines during the year were the resurgence of dark fiber services and the advent of Carrier Ethernet 2.0. Dark fiber growth is being driven by wireless operators for wireless backhaul, while CE 2.0 will give service providers a set of standard guidelines for network interconnection.

Once you've checked out this year's biggest stories below, please take a look at our previous Year in Review features from 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009. And then don't forget to check out the 2013 Year in Review from FierceWireless and the 2013 Year in Review from FierceCable.

P.S. FierceTelecom will be on a publishing break for the holidays. We will be updating the website with any breaking news, but our newsletter will be back in your inbox on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!