Broadband Growth Will Come From New Tech, Not New Adds


Broadband growth in the U.S. has slowed considerably in the last two years and future growth for online access technologies will come less from people adopting broadband for the first time and more from people upgrading from one technology to another, according to a report out today from Forrester. In addition to new technologies, Americans will also see speed boosts — even those on the slower service tiers — as providers attempt to offer more value on the low end rather than lower prices.

For many, the elimination of the 768 kbps or 1.5 Mbps connection options will go unnoticed, but for those that really only use email, a price decrease for barely broadband speeds will be welcome indeed — it could even spur a few laggards holding out on broadband because of pricing to step up. However, the big takeaway of the report is that most of the U.S. — at 80.9 million homes — has some access to broadband, and that such access will continue to improve.


When it comes to ISPs, subscriber growth will only help drive sales through the next two years; after that, revenue growth will have to come from new technologies, services and pricing schemes. Cable companies so far are winning, with 45 percent of homes expected to be subscribing to cable broadband by the end of 2009, but fiber to the home will make the most gains over the next five years, by which time it’s projected to grow to account for 10 percent of all access technologies from just 4 percent. And during that time, alternative wireless technologies aren’t forecast to be competitive to cable, fiber or even DSL.

While the speed boosts are welcome, I think the report needs to spend more time discussing how to make broadband access a differentiated service, beyond price and bundles. It recommends that providers focus their competitive strategies less on a bundle and more on  access to online storage, TV Everywhere and in-home entertainment that require higher speeds, and help keep subscribers from switching. The irony, of course, is that such high-bandwidth applications are apparently the same ones leading providers to cry uncle under an onslaught of heavy usage.


Varun Arora

Jim, you might be right. According to Forrester Research (September 2009), 37% of American households still do not have a broadband connection. However, getting the “skeptics” over the edge is not always as “cheap” as selling existing customers new services…

Jim Tobias

I’m not sure I agree that we’ve reached the S-curve plateau. There are plenty of people to whom no good adoption argument has yet been made (44% of Internet non-users think they are not interested in anything on it). There are millions more who find it too hard to use or downright inaccessible. Keeping in mind the positive externality of adding every single new user, now is not the time to get pessimistic.

Varun Arora

Stacey: What’s your view on US ISPs readiness to deploy value-added services riding on top of the core Internet service? You clearly believe they need to do this (“I think the report needs to spend more time discussing how to make broadband access a differentiated service”) but I’m still sensing more of a “technical” focus.

Naturally, our interest is to bring HomeCamera ( to consumers through the ISPs, and I’m trying to figure out when the “right time” would be to start engaging with them. That said, your thoughts would apply equally to providers of other applications that are relevant for ISPs.


– Varun
Founder, HomeCamera

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