News Briefs

Published June 1, 2005

U.S. Tops in Broadband Lines

The United States leads the world in wireline broadband connections, with 33.9 million DSL and cable modem lines as of year-end 2004, according to Point Topic, a U.K. research firm that tracks broadband market trends worldwide.

The U.S. accounts for 22.5 percent of the global total of 150.5 million broadband lines. Worldwide, a total of 50 million lines–more than one-third the total–were added in 2004 alone, the report found.

Growth rates were strongest in China, which added 26.5 million lines in the second half of 2004. Penetration also climbed in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Scandinavia.

Some countries are beginning to show signs of broadband saturation, Point Topic found. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Canada, early broadband powerhouses, had growth rates less than half the world average–21.3 percent–in fourth quarter 2004.

At 25 percent, South Korea tops all countries in broadband density, which Point Topic measures as a percentage of total population, not households. By this measure the U.S., with a broadband density of 11.5 lines per 100, does not make Point Topic’s top 10 list. Norway, which tanks 10th, has a density of slightly less than 15 percent.

House Bill Targets Phone Tax

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) has introduced legislation to repeal the 3 percent federal excise tax on telecom services. The tax, levied on wireline local and long-distance as well as wireless phone services, was passed in 1898 to raise funds for the Spanish-American War. At the time it was considered a luxury tax, because only the very wealthy had telephones.

Miller’s bill, introduced as the Telephone Excise Tax Repeal Act of 2005, has been endorsed by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the trade group representing the wireless industry.

Bloggers Seek First Amendment Protection

Apple Computer is forcing a court test on whether First Amendment protections that apply to conventional print and broadcast media extend to owners and authors of Web logs (blogs).

The owners of AppleInsider and PowerPage have appealed a Santa Clara, California county court decision to uphold a subpoena brought by Apple demanding access to email records, and thereby confidential sources, of several blogs that cover inside product news at the computer company. The case is now before the California Court of Appeal.

Apple is seeking the source of details about an upcoming Apple product, code-named Asteroid, that were published on AppleInsider and PowerPage, which Apple claims violated trade secrets. While business magazines and trade newspapers routinely publish details of new products prior to formal introduction–often to the irritation of the manufacturer–such reporting is protected by the First Amendment.

No such protections are available to bloggers, ruled Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg. Throughout his decision, Kleinberg asserted blogs are little more than outlets for gossip; he consistently placed the word journalist, when referring to bloggers, inside quotation marks.

Adobe to Buy Macromedia

Adobe Systems and Macromedia, manufacturers of software used to distribute documents across multiple PC and communications platforms, have agreed to merge in a $3.4 billion stock deal.

Both companies are major players in the professional market for software used to create electronic documents and Web media and to present and share electronic content on PCs, PDAs, and cell phones.

Macromedia makes Dreamweaver, a popular Web site development package, and is the developer of Flash, the popular Web media programming tool. Adobe makes PageMaker and is the developer of the Portable Document Format (PDF), the de facto standard for electronic document imaging on the Web.

As a merged company, Adobe and Macromedia will present formidable market and technology-based competition for Microsoft as the Redmond, Washington software giant attempts to exert more influence in applications software, especially for new types of wireless and personal media devices.

Steven Titch ([email protected]) is senior fellow for IT and telecom policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of IT&T News.