FCC: Broadband Adoption Surging in U.S.


Subscribership to high-speed-data service in the United States nearly tripled from June 2001-December 2003, the Federal Communications Commission said a report released Thursday.

The agency -- which regulates many wireless and wireline providers of high-speed data to homes and businesses -- said U.S. broadband penetration jumped from 9.6 million in June 2001 to 28.2 million in December 2003.

The FCC added that as of December 2003, cable operators had 75.3% of high-speed lines, phone companies using digital subscriber line had 14.9% and other technologies had 9.8%.

The FCC penetration measurement was based on access to data rates in excess of 200 kilobits per second in at least one direction.

In the study, ordered by Congress, the commission concluded that broadband is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.

Broadband access has emerged as a topic in the race for the White House. President George W. Bush has called for universal affordable broadband access by 2007, with consumers choosing service from multiple providers. He also called for a tax ban on Internet access.

Challenger Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) -- complaining that the United States has lost 800,000 high-tech jobs and has slipped to 10th in broadband penetration -- has endorsed a plan that would eliminate capital-gains tax on long-term investments in small business and would remove regulations that impede the ability of U.S. firms to compete.

Kerry would fund his plan from an estimated $30 billion collected in future auctions of broadcast spectrum.

The FCC report also analyzed broadband-penetration rates based on data speeds of at least 200 kbps in both directions -- a category the agency dubbed “advanced” broadband. Between June 2001-December 2003, penetration of advanced broadband nearly tripled, rising from 5.9 million to 20.3 million, the commission said.

The FCC said cable had 58% (11.7 million) of the advanced-broadband market, while DSL providers had 34% (6.9 million).

According to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, cable operators serve 17.3 million cable-modem subscribers and made the service available to 95 million homes.

The FCC also found that the number of communities without any broadband subscribers had declined. In June 2001, 22.2 percent of U.S. postal ZIP codes had no broadband subscribers. By December 2003, the figure dropped to 6.8%.

Choice among providers also grew over the 18-month study period. The FCC said 27.5% of ZIP codes had four or more broadband providers in June 2001, compared with 46.3% in December 2003.