U.S. Broadband Growth Slowest in Eight Years
The U.S. government broadband stimulus program couldn’t have come along at a better time. Leichtman Research Group said Monday that the country’s 19 largest cable and telephone providers added a net 634,000 broadband subscribers during the second quarter of 2009 (see table below; click to enlarge). That’s 29 percent fewer than were added in the same period a year ago and the lowest number of net additions of any quarter in the last eight years.
The reasons for the decline? Seasonality, the econalypse and the maturation of the market. “The second quarter has proven to be traditionally weak for broadband growth, but with the market becoming more mature, broadband adds further waned,” Bruce Leichtman, LRG’s president and principal analyst, said in a statement.
Poor broadband infrastructure and limited access to it in rural areas clearly also played a role. In rural America, just 31 percent of residents have a broadband connection, as opposed to more than two-thirds in the rest of the country, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. No wonder America now ranks 15th in the world on broadband access, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
So that $7.2 billion in broadband investments the Obama administration recently pledged stands to do a lot of good–assuming it’s put to use by the right folks. It’s not yet clear that will happen, however, because the large network operators best positioned to roll out access to underserved areas are afraid of taking stimulus money for fear of net-neutrality conditions that might be attached to it, as well as of unwanted government scrutiny.
And as Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, notes, that’s really too bad. “If you want to get broadband out, you have to do it with [those] who brought you to the dance in the first place, and in this case it is the incumbent cable and telephone carriers who have 85 percent of lines in the country,” he told the Washington Post. “This is not basket weaving. This is really complex and intensive technical stuff that takes a fair amount of sophistication and scale to be able to do right and to continue to upgrade.”
[Image Credit: Flickr/alan i am]