Telecommunications equipment makers are facing tough challenges in their Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplexer (DSLAM) designs. These challenges translate into numerous specific requirements for the access processors (APs) resident on DSLAM line cards. To examine these AP requirements, this paper provides a brief look at semiconductor industry trends, as well as the architectural features available in a specific field programmable gate array (FPGA)-based access flow processor (AFP). The paper also explains why custom network processing units (NPUs) are an ideal choice for DSLAM line cards.