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Speeding's the ticket for U.S. surfers

The number of Americans with high-speed Internet access rose to 19 million in the first months of 2003, giving both cable and DSL providers a record-setting quarter.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
More Americans are signing up for high-speed Internet access this year, and cable and digital subscriber line providers are duking it out for their dollars.

Nearly 2 million people began using broadband service in the first quarter of 2003, pushing the total U.S. tally to 19 million subscribers, according to a new study by the Leichtman Research Group.

More of those subscribers opted for cable Internet access than for access via DSL, the study said. The top cable companies added 1.2 million people for the quarter, for 65 percent of the total market.

"Both cable and DSL had a record-setting quarter in the first quarter of 2003, but cable continued the trend of adding nearly twice as many subscribers as DSL," said Bruce Leichtman, president of the research company.

Major DSL providers are launching lower-priced services to push adoption. For example, Verizon Communications and Microsoft earlier this week unveiled their long-awaited joint DSL service for $34.95 a month, with a $5 discount for customers of certain Verizon voice service plans.

All the leading Internet service providers--including Microsoft's MSN, AOL Time Warner's America Online and EarthLink--are trying to reinvent themselves as providers of high-speed Net access to battle the defection of subscribers to discount dial-up companies and broadband providers.

Cable companies have a wide market to capture, too. The top 10 U.S. cable providers have equipment in place to supply broadband Internet to 87 million potential subscribers. Only 14 percent of these have signed up for cable Net access, however.

Of the cable companies, Comcast led in broadband adoption in the first quarter, with 417,000 new high-speed Net access subscribers and a total customer base of 4 million. AOL Time Warner came second with 260,000 new customers and 2.7 million total, according to the report.

In the DSL niche, SBC Communications headed the pack, with 271,000 new customers and 2.5 million total. Verizon followed with 160,000 newbies and 1.8 million cumulative.

The data was compiled through reported totals in the various companies' quarterly reports, according to Leichtman Research Group. That excludes private companies, whose numbers were estimated.