Number of US broadband users hits 48 million

The number of broadband users in the US nearly tripled in the past two and a half years to more than 48 million subscribers,...

The number of broadband users in the US nearly tripled in the past two and a half years to more than 48 million subscribers, according to a report by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

High-speed lines providing connectivity of more than 200Kbps in at least one direction almost tripled from June 2001 to December 2003, from 9.6 million lines to 28.2 million lines, according to the FCC report.

The number of subscribers to advanced services providing connection speeds of more than 200Kbps in both directions has more than tripled since the FCC's last report, from 5.9 million lines in June 2001 to 20.3 million lines in December 2003.

Cable modem and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) services provided the vast majority of advanced services lines, with cable representing 75.3% and DSL representing 14.9%. The percentage of cable lines increased from the 2001 report, when 56% of broadband lines were cable, according to the FCC.

About 18.1 million residential and small business customers subscribed to the faster advanced services lines in late 2003, compared with 4.3 million lines in 2001, according to the FCC.

As of December 2003, only 6.8% of US postcodes reported no high-speed lines, compared with 22.2% of postcodes with no reported lines in June 2001. There has also been significant growth in the per cent of postcodes reporting four or more providers of high-speed lines, from 27.5% in June 2001 to 46.3% in December 2003.

The report shows the US has "turned the corner on the digital migration", FCC chairman Michael Powell said.

"This country finds its greatest strength in its diversity," Powell said. "Today's report shows that America's broadband future is built on the most diverse - and therefore strongest - foundation possible. It describes a marketplace of increasing choice built upon multiple broadband platforms."

But commissioner Michael Copps noted that the US is ranked seventh among nations in broadband penetration. In Japan and South Korea, consumers can get speeds of more than 8,000Kbps for similar prices that US customers pay for much slower speeds, he said. "Why ... is the FCC still collecting data about 200Kbps service and calling it broadband?" he said.

Copps called for a comprehensive US strategy to improve broadband services.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Telecoms networks and broadband communications