More broadband users online, but pace may slow

Mon, 05/19/2003 - 8:00pm

Copyright 2003 The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News

May 19, 2003, Monday SECOND EDITION

Nearly a third of home Internet users now have high-speed "broadband" connections, reflecting a 50 percent increase over the last year, according to research expected to be released Monday.

But the rapid growth rate appears set to slow, according to a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Many dial-up customers who haven't switched to broadband have no plans to do so, researchers said. At the same time, many of the dial-up users who want faster access speeds have found it's not available where they live, particularly in rural areas.

"A lot of the low-hanging fruit has been picked," said John B. Horrigan, senior research specialist at the Washington-based nonprofit group, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which researches the impact of the Internet on society.

The data show that 31 percent of home Internet users — or 16 percent of all Americans — had a high-speed connection as of the end of March. A year earlier, 21 percent of residential Internet users had broadband.

Broadband access, using cable modems or digital subscriber line technology, offers computer users access speeds at least several times faster than dial-up connections - and often more than 10 times faster. Another advantage to broadband is that the connection is always active.

The expected moderation of broadband growth comes as overall Internet adoption has stalled in this country. Since late 2001, the researchers said, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they go online has hovered at about 58 percent.

The challenge for the cable and telephone industries will be first to serve customers who want broadband but can't get it, and second, to find new customers, Mr. Horrigan said.

Local-phone companies including SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have attracted customers in recent months by dropping prices for their DSL service from $50 a month to $35.

Andrew Combs recently ordered DSL service after he set up a WiFi network for the personal computers at his home in the Lake Highlands section of Dallas. Now, the PCs share the broadband connection wirelessly.

"The price for wireless networking became cost effective to do, and once the computers were networked, I noticed DSL had gotten a lot cheaper, too," said Mr. Combs, 40, a civil engineer. "It's doing everything I'd hoped, and it's been a significant improvement."

The Pew study is based on a telephone poll in March of 1,495 adult Americans, with a margin of error for the full sample of plus or minus 2 percent.



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