High-Speed Data Connections Grow in 2005

Published September 1, 2006

The number of broadband Internet connections in the U.S. increased by 33 percent, or 12.3 million lines, during 2005, according to mid-year reports released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Meanwhile, the number of switched access line (landline telephone) numbers slipped for both incumbent and competitive local exchange carriers, while wireless service subscriptions grew.

Extensive Access to Broadband

The total number of broadband (high-speed) connections in the U.S. stood at 50.2 million lines for the 12 months ending December 31, 2005. The FCC defines broadband connections as lines capable of exceeding 200 Kb/s in one direction as well as “advanced service lines” capable of those speeds in two directions.

Of these high-speed lines, 42.9 million served primarily residential end users. Cable modems accounted for 57.5 percent of these lines, while 40.5 percent were asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) connections.

Growth in the number of ADSL lines exceeded the increase in the number of cable modems for the first time since it began collecting this data in 2000, the FCC said. ADSL increased by 5.7 million lines in 2005, compared to a 4.2 million line increase for cable modem services. In the second half of 2005, ADSL growth outpaced cable modem connections by two to one, with 3.2 million new ADSL lines compared to 1.6 million new cable modem lines.

However, cable modems still lead in the area of “advanced services.” Of 42.8 million advanced services lines reported by year-end 2005, 62.4 percent were cable modem service and 36.2 percent were ADSL. More than 62 percent of the advanced services lines were at least 2.5 Mb/s in the faster direction.

The FCC estimates as of year-end 2005, high-speed DSL connections were available to 78 percent of households to which incumbent local exchange carriers could provide phone service, and that high-speed cable modem service was available to 93 percent of the households to which cable system operators could provide cable TV service.

The report indicates more than 99 percent of the U.S. population has access to at least one broadband connection provider. The most widely reported high-speed connections by zip code were satellite (some presence reported in 88 percent of zip codes); ADSL (82 percent); and cable modem (57 percent). ADSL and/or cable modem connections were reported present in 87 percent of zip codes.

Landline Numbers Falling

While the number of broadband connections grows, the slow but pronounced slippage in end-user switched access lines for voice services continues. The FCC reports 175.4 million total switched access lines at year-end 2005; that’s a decrease of 2.8 million lines from June 30, 2005.

Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) saw a drop of 300,000 lines, from 144.1 million lines at June 30 to 143.8 million at year’s end. Competitive LECs (CLECs) lost 2.5 million lines, dropping from 34.1 million at June 30 to 31.6 million lines at year-end.

The number of mobile telephone service subscriptions totaled 203.7 million at year-end, a 12 percent increase from the previous year.

The FCC reports CLECs had about 18 percent of the total end-user switched access line market at year-end 2005. Of the 31.6 million CLEC lines, 5.1 million were provided over coaxial connections. That represents about 50 percent of the 10.1 million access lines CLECs reported providing over local loops.

Those 10.1 million access lines represent 32 percent of the end-user switched access lines CLECs said they provided over their own local loop facilities. CLECs reported providing another 47 percent by using unbundled network elements (UNEs) they leased from other carriers, and 21 percent through resale arrangements with unaffiliated carriers.

The FCC reports about 98 percent of the U.S. population has access to CLEC services, and multiple carriers provide local telephone service in major population centers.

Sharon J. Watson ([email protected]) is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of IT issues.