Washington, DC – Cable operators ended the third quarter of 2003 (July 1 to September 30) with a strong showing in advanced broadband services, topping the 15 million subscriber mark for high-speed Internet access service and 21 million for digital cable service, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) announced today.

“Despite intense competition from DSL providers, cable has seen customer growth in high-speed Internet services of almost 30 percent during the first nine months of 2003. This a great indicator of continued strong consumer demand for broadband services,” said Robert Sachs, President & CEO, NCTA.

Cable modem service via upgraded broadband cable systems is now available to more than 90 million U.S. households. Over the past seven years, the number of cable modem customers in the United States has shown steady growth. From a base of 10,000 at the end of 1996, that number climbed to 74,000 by the end of 1997; one-half million by the end of 1998; 1.6 million by the end of 1999; 3.7 million at the end of 2000; 7.2 million by the end of 2001; and 11.6 million by the close of 2002.

Digital cable also continues to grow, from 19.2 million customers at the end of 2002, to 21.5 million for the third quarter of 2003, growth of 12 percent since the beginning of the year. Digital cable products include digital programming tiers, video-on-demand, subscription video-on-demand and HDTV. Also, there were approximately 2.5 million cable telephone customers at the end of the third quarter of 2003.

“Cable operators’ ability to offer a bundle of broadband services has become an important advantage in a highly competitive marketplace in which consumers have three or more choices of video providers,” Sachs said.

Since 1996, cable operators have invested more than $75 billion – more than $1,000 per customer – to upgrade cable systems with fiber optic networks in order to provide consumers with an array of advanced digital broadband services, including interactive digital cable, high-definition television, high-speed Internet access, and digital telephone service.

NCTA 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 200 cable program networks, as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry.