DSL Usage Surpasses Cable Modem

DSL subscribers have surpassed cable modem subscribers, according to a survey by The Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Pew Director Lee Rainie, speaking June 29 at The Media Giraffe conference at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, said it was clear by Pew's fall 2005 survey that DSL had taken over the top spot. The primary reason was related to the telcos’ heavy discounting of DSL plans compared with cable modems. Some services are now available for as low as $16.95 per month, while cable is typically above $44.

While DSL leads cable modem, the usage habits of DSL and cable modem users is largely undifferentiated, said Rainie — except for the coincidental factor that people who are connected at cable's faster speeds tend to be heavier users of Internet services, such as general news and hyper-local services. For instance, 43 percent of the U.S.'s 87 million broadband users use the Internet as their primary source for news, compared with 35 percent of the general population.

Rainie made several additional observations about Internet content usage. For instance, 50 million Americans don't seek out news from a specific service but "bump into" it a la headlines provided by the portals and other locations. Another 10 percent seek out news from alternative sites such as news blogs, international sites such as BBC.com and Aljazeera, pure-play alternative sites and list services. The pursuit of alternative news tends to be elevated when there is important, controversial news, such as the Iraqi war.

As for the "Fox factor," where citizens seek out news that is slanted to their own political preferences, Rainie said it is actually a mixed bag. Just 31 percent of Americans seek out "straight" news, while 26 percent look for news that shares their point of view. But an additional 21 percent seek out news that challenges their point of view.

But back to the finding that DSL has taken over the top spot … a few years ago, one would have thought that a telco-product would provide strong synergies with Yellow Pages, VoIP and other services. The reality is that most telcos have turned over their front pages to Yahoo! or MSN. While the telcos share in the proceeds from premium services such as music subscriptions, neither of those portals are pushing telco products. If nothing is done, the lost opportunity for Yellow Pages and VoIP with DSL could be compounded further as the telcos begin introducing their IPTV platforms.

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