Study details broadband in states

American Electronics Association

Although the pace of Internet broadband growth has slowed, the number of subscribers increased to 16.2 million as of June 2002, up from 2.8 million in December 1999. However, one of the biggest challenges remains high-speed service in rural areas, according to a new report released today.

The report from the American Electronics Association (AeA), titled Broadband in the States 2003, provides overall national adoption trends for broadband as well as how individual states are faring. The high-tech industry association defines broadband as data transmission at speeds exceeding 200 kilobits/sec in at least one direction.

The trends in the AeA report are similar to those in a study released earlier this week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, but that report did not provide state statistics.

One of the AeA report's authors, Christopher Novak, assistant director for research and industry trends, said while the rate of growth slowed to 27 percent during the first half of 2002, as compared with 33 percent in the last half of 2001, that may change as Verizon and other telephone companies recently decided to drop their rates to $35 a month. "And we're quite optimistic that that's going to have a positive impact on the future," he said.

However, rural regions around the country aren't faring so well. The report indicates only 50 percent of the nation's most sparsely populated communities have a broadband provider serving customers, as opposed to 99 percent in the most densely populated communities. That's because telecommunications and other private-sector providers see little return on investment from providing the infrastructure in such areas.

Novak said a few states have embarked on "pretty ambitious initiatives" to wire rural and underserved areas in the past two years. For example, North Carolina has practically all of its 100 counties wired for broadband, he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides funds as well, but it's mostly a state-driven issue, he added.

"And it's actually kind of really important because there are some applications that could really be utilized out in the rural areas that aren't so necessary in the urban areas — things like telemedicine, e-learning as well as telecommuting," he said. "Telemedicine especially. That is one thing that would be excellent. . .because there are some states where you've got serious hours to drive to hospitals with all of the top specialties."

But Novak also said there aren't many applications yet that really justify broadband use. That may change with his and the Pew study.

"I think some of the software companies might be changing their thinking because there really is quite a push out there now. There's quite a good base to develop these applications that really require broadband," he said.

Among states, the report indicates that California, New York, Florida, Texas and New Jersey were the top five in terms of broadband subscribers. Massachusetts, however, had the highest concentration of subscribers, 239 per 1,000 households in June 2002, followed by New Jersey, California, Washington, D.C., and Alaska.

Of the total broadband subscribers, about 9.2 million used cable, 5.1 million used DSL, and 520,000 had fiber. About 221,000 used satellite or fixed wireless and other wireline subscribers numbered 1.2 million.

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