Broadband usage up, FCC says

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Subscribership to high-speed Internet and data services climbed 250
percent during the 18 months ended June 30, according to the Federal
Communications Commission's annual report to Congress on the rollout of advanced
telecommunications services.

The report, released Thursday, "illustrates that the broadband market continues
to grow," FCC chairman Michael Powell said in a prepared statement. He added that
new technologies are being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.

The report comes as the commission gears up to resolve several complicated policy
disputes over regulation of broadband providers.

In mid-March, the FCC is expected to begin rulemakings to determine the
regulatory framework for cable-modem service and telephone digital subscriber
lines.

Also under way is a review of local telephone companies' "unbundling"
requirements for broadband facilities.

Democratic commissioner Michael Copps questioned whether the FCC's study
contained information specific enough to judge the pace of broadband deployment.
"We have not delved as deeply as Congress expects," he added.

According to Copps, the data do not indicate if poor, rural, Native American, or
disabled people are able to obtain broadband at rates approaching those for
the rest of the population, nor has the agency taken steps to ensure that data are
collected in the future.

Powell countered that the information provides a useful glimpse of the pace
of deployment, if not the precise number of people being served in any one area.

Much of the data Copps seeks may be confidential, Powell said.

The report's other findings:

\u0007 There were approximately 9.6 million high-speed subscribers as of June
30.

\u0007 Residential or small-business high-speed subscribers stood at 7.8 million,
up 51 percent from the beginning of 2001.

\u0007 A total of 7 percent of U.S. households subscribe to high-speed services, up from 4.7
percent since January 2001.

\u0007 Cable leads in high-speed subscribers with 5.2 million
lines, or 45 percent of the market; telephone DSL accounts for 2.7 million, or
36 percent, while satellite and fixed wireless have fewer than 200,000.

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