Cable or DSL? Consumers See Little Difference

There is high interest in high-speed Internet connections among the US households that currently connect to the Internet, according to a study by Harris Interactive, which measured the perceptions of both current and potential broadband users.

The Harris Interactive Consumer TechPoll of more than 69,000 Internet users found that approximately 38.9 million US households connect to the Internet, and about 3.6 million of them use a high-speed connection (cable modem, DSL, ISDN, or satellite data service). Most of the current broadband users use either a cable modem (2.35 million) or DSL (0.85 million).

The study found that both DSL and cable modem users are pleased with their connections. About 85 percent are satisfied with the reliability of their broadband connection, and about 90 percent are satisfied with the speed of downloading pages and files. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of cable modem users were satisfied with the amount of time it took them to actually have the service after they ordered it — a much higher level than for DSL users (58 percent). Cable modem users also seemed to find their service easier to set up. Eighty-one percent of cable modem users were satisfied with the ease of set up vs. 71 percent for DSL.

“These results show that while subscribers are happy with their broadband connections once they get them, there is room for improvement in the provisioning of these services to shorten the wait time between order placement and functioning broadband connections,” said David Tremblay, director of technology research at Harris Interactive.

The study found little difference between perceptions among those planning to get either DSL or cable modem services. A projected 5 million Internet-using households planned to get either DSL or cable modem broadband services within the next six months — one-third more than were already using them. These intended subscribers saw little difference between DSL and cable modem services. An equal portion (30 percent) believed that connection speeds of both DSL and cable modem services were consistent; an about equal portion (31 percent) believed that both connections would be reliable. Only 7 percent thought that either service would be difficult to install and set up; nearly half said they would choose the less expensive service; and 57 percent said they would choose the service that had the higher top speed.

“What’s holding back revenues for broadband service providers isn’t a lack of demand for broadband services,” Tremblay said. “The business is there to be had if service providers can get their provisioning acts together. What is interesting is how little difference broadband planners see between the two dominant service types, DSL and cable modems. So, while the challenge now is provisioning, as service areas become more widespread, service providers will have to better differentiate their offerings unless they want to battle it out simply for price.”

The Harris Interactive Consumer TechPoll uses a sample taken from more than 7 million online respondents.

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