A comprehensive broadband information network has been the goal of many Telecom operators worldwide. It is likely that such target networks will be single mode and will use time- and wavelength-division multiplexing and eventually coherent technologies to carry all services (including high-definition television). At issue is whether fibring of the local-access network can proceed by direct installation of such comprehensive target systems in the 1990s, or whether fibre solutions could first become cost-effective for current narrowband services and then gracefully evolve to broadband services. Regarding the technologies, there is more familiarity with star networks involving one or two fibres to each customer. In this paper, recent developments in the use of passive distributed networks are described, and optoelectronic issues affecting the adoption of star and distributed technologies are considered against the means of achieving future broadband infrastructures.