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‘Net meeting need for speed, FCC sez

Subscriber lines at the end of the year totaled 37.9 mil

WASHINGTON — Geeks like it faster: High-speed Internet connections increased by 34% among consumers and businesses in 2004, according to newly released data from the Federal Communications Commission.

Subscriber lines at the end of the year totaled 37.9 million — up from 28.2 million at the start of the year — with most of the increase occurring in the last two quarters.

The FCC defined high-speed lines as those delivering services at more than 200 kilobytes per second in one direction. Advanced high-speed involved 200kbs services in both directions. The connections included broadband, DSL and satellite services.

While high-speed services were found in virtually every part of the country, the majority exist in high-income locations.

“In the top one-tenth of ZIP codes ranked by median household income, high-speed subscribers are reported in 99% of ZIP codes,” the FCC stated. “By contrast, high-speed subscribers are reported in 83% of ZIP codes with the lowest median household income, compared to 82% a year earlier.”

High-speed usually costs about $20 more a month than dial-up service.

Release of data coincided with the publication of an op-ed piece by commission topper Kevin J. Martin in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal, in which he wrote, “Broadband access is essential to an expanding Internet-based information economy. Creating a policy environment that speeds the deployment of broadband throughout the U.S. is my highest priority as the new chairman of the FCC.”

Kyle McSlarrow, prexy-chief of the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn., said in a statement, “The findings in the FCC’s report underscore the great return on the cable industry’s $100 billion investment in building a nationwide broadband infrastructure. The report … also validates the light regulatory touch applied by Congress and the FCC to broadband policy.”

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