Seattle, WA -- The cable industry now passes more than 60 million households with its high speed Internet service, and the industry’s deployment continues at a rapid pace, NCTA President & CEO Robert Sachs told a meeting of the Telecommunications Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in Seattle, WA today.

"Five million plus cable modem customers have proven (the skeptics) wrong, and 70,000 new cable modem customers are signing up very week," Sachs said. "The result of cable’s $50 billion investment? Vigorous competition and rapid growth in this critical sector of our economy."

Sachs cited a recent Morgan Stanley Dean Witter consumer broadband analysis that 81 million households, or 77% of total U.S. households, will enjoy cable modem service availability by the end of 2001. That same report found that 51 million, or 49% of U.S. households, will also have DSL ("digital subscriber line") service available by the end of this year.

And at the end of 2004, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter projects that homes passed by cable modem service and DSL will increase to 92% and 80%, respectively, of U.S. households. "These projections suggest marketplace competition is narrowing the digital divide," Sachs said.

The benefits of marketplace competition go well beyond the availability of cable modem service to 60 million households, Sachs observed. Marketplace competition has prompted definitive steps to integrate multiple ISPs over the cable plant, he said.

Sachs discussed technical trials being conducted by four of the nation’s top cable companies for multiple ISP access over cable’s high speed broadband networks. "What is important is this: consumer choice of multiple ISPs over cable is being resolved by the market through voluntary, arms length business agreements," Sachs said.

Local telephony competition is emerging as well, Sachs said. While cable telephony is a relatively new business, cable companies are now serving some 1.3 million residential phone customers, utilizing traditional circuit-switched technology. Thousands of new cable telephony customers are signing up every week, he said.

NCTA also released a White Paper on Cable Telephony that details cable operator field tests of Voice over Internet Telephony. "Many of the companies in our industry see Voice over IP as the logical next step in local telephone competition," Sachs told the NARUC conference.

"(The last) five years have seen multichannel video and Internet competition flourish," Sachs concluded. "I am optimistic that the next five years will see the promise of local phone competition finally realized."

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), formerly the National Cable Television Association, is the principal trade association of the cable television industry in the United States. NCTA represents cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households and more than 150 cable program networks, as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry. In addition to offering traditional video services, NCTA's members also provide broadband services such as high-speed Internet access and telecommunications services such as local exchange telephone service to customers across the United States.

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Click on the link above for the full text of Robert Sachs' speech.

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