DSL Customers Shrug Off Service Issues

A study by Harris Interactive found that despite provisioning and customer service problems, the number of DSL service users continues to gain on the number of cable modem users.

The study found that the number of U.S. households with broadband Internet connections grew 41 percent between April 2000 and January 2001, climbing to just over 5 million households in January. DSL connections more than doubled over this stretch and accounted for three-quarters of the growth in broadband subscribers. The number of cable modem subscribers increased by only 10 percent, and accounted for about one-in-six new subscribers. The net result is that DSL’s share of broadband subscribers is approaching the share of the cable modem services.

Cable modem subscribers are generally more satisfied than DSL subscribers, but there are some differences among the customers of individual service providers. Cox Cable customers are generally more satisfied than are customers of other cable modem suppliers. Customers of AT&T Broadband — who reported problems with customer service, the monthly service cost, and the reliability of their connection — are much less satisfied.

Qwest performed best of the DSL service providers measured. Its satisfaction scores are in line with those of cable modem suppliers and well above other DSL providers. Overall, however, DSL service subscribers are less satisfied with most aspects of their service than are cable modem subscribers. A key problem for DSL subscribers: the time it takes to get service once it’s ordered. Verizon and Earthlink customers in particular are dissatisfied with this aspect of their service.

“In the battle of titans, the DSL providers are beating cable modem suppliers,” said Dave Tremblay, director, technology research at Harris Interactive. “DSL’s gains in share say that marketing and improving service area coverage are winning over provisioning speed and service satisfaction. If they are to regain the momentum, cable modem suppliers need to find a way to capitalize on their advantages in responsiveness and service.”

The Harris Interactive survey was conducted among more than 187,000 Internet users, including more than 36,000 who access the Internet using a cable modem service or DSL.

According to Kinetic Strategies Inc., 7.8 million households now subscribe to broadband Internet services in the United States and Canada. Of this total, 5.5 million homes use cable modems, compared to 2.3 million residential DSL customers.

Worldwide shipments of cable modem products based on the DOCSIS standard surpassed 6 million units in 2000, a six-fold increase over 1999. North American shipments accounted for 68 percent of the 2000 total, equal to 4.8 million units, up from 718,000 units in 1999. For full-year 2000 Motorola Inc. led the DOCSIS modem market with a 38.1-percent share, followed by 3Com with 17.2 percent, Toshiba with 13.2 percent and Thomson Multimedia with 11.4 percent.

U.S. Broadband Use by Technology
Date Broadband
Cable Modem
DSL Share
April 2000 3,622 65% 24%
July 2000 4,552 58% 28%
Nov. 2000 4,918 55% 34%
Jan. 2001 5,098 51% 39%
Source: Harris Interactive

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