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U.S. broadband access leaped 42 percent in 2003

Demand for faster Internet connections fueled the sharp spike to more than 28 million broadband lines nationwide, which was led by DSL sales, according to a new FCC report.

Broadband Internet access in the United States surged 42 percent last year as demand for speedier connections remained strong, according to a report from the Federal Communications Commission.

At the end of 2003, the FCC reported a total of 28.3 million broadband lines in the United States. The study, released Tuesday, also showed that growth for the second half of 2003 reached 20 percent, up from an 18 percent increase during the first half of the year.

As the market grows, the battle between cable modems and digital subscriber line (DSL) services is getting more cut-throat.

Asymmetric digital subscriber lines (ADSL), the most common type of DSL used to connect households, grew 47 percent to 9.5 million lines. This is good news for the Baby Bell phone companies, which are the main purveyors of the technology. DSL has been available longer than cable, but the Bells are playing catch-up because they were slow to enter the market.

The Bells have succeeded in closing the gap by offering steep discounts and slashing prices. Cable companies have refused to cut prices, opting instead to boost download speeds.

Cable modems did not grow as quickly as DSL, but the technology continued to lead in the market. Cable modem access jumped 45 percent to 16.4 million lines, a sizeable lead over DSL.