- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

Consumer interest in high-speed Internet access is expected to slow as more Americans say they are happy with dial-up connections and others say the service isn’t offered in their neighborhoods, according to a report released yesterday.

While broadband subscriptions rose 50 percent between March 2002 and March 2003, fewer dial-up users are willing to switch, says the report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Internet providers such as AOL Time Warner, Cox Communications and Verizon have spent billions of dollars in the last decade to roll out high-speed networks over cable and phone lines, thereby offering faster downloads of Web pages, video and music.

Pew said that about 30 million Americans —16 percent of the population — log onto the Internet using high-speed connections at home, offered by local cable companies such as Cox or through digital subscriber line service offered by phone companies like Verizon.

But things haven’t always gone smoothly for these companies. Phone companies blame regulatory rules for slowing expansion of its service, and the weak economy has slowed some capital expenditures, leaving many rural communities without access.

More than 60 million Americans, or about 70 percent of all Internet users, access the Web using dial-up connections.

The Pew report showed that most of the dial-up users who had access to faster connections, which are at least twice as expensive, don’t want them.

Even experienced dial-up users — who historically have clamored for access to broadband — now appear more content with slower connections, and 57 percent of all dial-up users said they have no interest in upgrading to broadband.

“Today, there are fewer dial-up users itching to make the jump to broadband,” the Pew report said.

Pew conducted two separate surveys. The group interviewed 1,495 persons in March to determine how many Americans used broadband connections. It also interviewed 1,677 persons, including 1,027 Internet users, in October to determine who had access to broadband and who wanted it.

Broadband access is still unavailable to nearly 30 percent of the country, Pew said, particularly in rural areas. Internet providers have worked to expand their networks to America’s heartland, but broadband is still much more prevalent in other countries like Canada and South Korea.

Cable companies including Comcast AT&T;, Cox Communications and AOL Time Warner have dominated the high-speed Internet market. Pew said that cable broadband has about 21 million users, compared with about 9 million who use digital subscriber lines, or DSL.

The gap has prompted phone companies to roll out high-speed wireless networks in an attempt to compete, and access via wireless networks and satellites doubled in 2002 to about 1.4 million subscribers.

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