By BUILDER Magazine Staff In the August Tech Tips we looked at a fiber-to-the-home trial in which BellSouth retrofitted Atlanta-area homes with direct fiber optic connections. But while the telecom plans to expand the service over the next few years, some developers aren't willing to wait that long.

One of these is the developer of Daniel Island, near Charleston, S.C. When it's completed seven to 10 years from now, this community will include 5,000 homes, a 300-unit apartment complex, 2 million square feet of commercial space, plantation-style architecture, and pedestrian friendly streets. In addition, there will be an assisted-living facility, a high school, and a professional tennis stadium. (April's Family Circle Cup tournament has already moved there from Hilton Head, S.C.) But despite all this, the developer wanted an additional edge to differentiate the community. That edge was an always-on fiber optic connection to every home and building.

Making the connection required the developers to create their own technology company. According to Robert Pinckney, president of the Daniel Island Media Co., the developers approached BellSouth, but because Daniel Island was a new project, it was "difficult to get them to put leading-edge technology out there."

To help with the infrastructure, Daniel Island Media contracted with the Minneapolis-based Optical Solutions, which manufactures the send and receive units installed at the central office and on the individual buildings. Eventually, says Pinckney, the fiber's potential data carrying capacity of 1 gigabit per second will let the company offer video-on-demand and other premium services.

To help buyers take advantage of the connection, the community's sales office includes a demonstration area with audio, security, home theater, and home office applications. Local integrators install everything and get it working. Daniel Island Media provides full-time technical support, something Pinckney believes is crucial to such an ambitious technology plan.

The results so far have been encouraging. Pinckney says the technology has helped attract a number of technology-dependent professionals, including a doctor who wants to be able to examine X-rays at home. But Pinckney cautions that going it alone isn't for everyone. While he is working on similar projects with four other developers around the country, he says that, at least for now, it's only cost-effective for developments of at least 1,000 homes.