The only 5 charts you'll need to understand what's happening to the US telecom market

By: Libby Jacobson

How can America spur more investment in broadband infrastructure? A new report from the Internet Innovation Alliance attempts to answer that question. Author and telecom industry analyst Dr. Anna-Maria Kovacs looks at the way regulation impacts competition and investment in infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Kovacs finds that regulatory requirements on some companies to maintain and operate aging – and often redundant – networks divert much-needed investment from new infrastructure.  Or, put another way: money spent on one thing can’t be spent on another.

While this conclusion won’t come as a shock to anybody, some of the statistics that appear in the report offer a stark illustration of some of the biggest trends in the communications industry over the last decade-plus.  For instance:

  • The number of plain-old-telephone-service (that’s POTS, or the old legacy copper network) residential lines has declined by two-thirds since 1999.

  • Today only 5% of US households rely on POTS as their only voice service. In 2002 this portion was 88%.

  • Fiber-based broadband subscriptions are growing steadily, but slowly. Dr. Kovacs attributes this to the requirements on telcos to maintain their copper networks, which limits their investing in fiber.

  • The number of overall fixed broadband connections has been growing over the last decade. It was still growing in 2012, but the growth in mobile connections is absolutely crushing all fixed-line competitors, including cable and fiber.

  • In fact today 65% of all broadband connections in the US are mobile connections.

To summarize, consumers are abandoning the copper phone lines and replacing them with either mobile or broadband-based voice service, while mobile is not only absorbing voice customers, but also broadband subscriptions.

Libby Jacobson focuses on social, digital and external communications for Verizon’s federal legislative, regulatory, and public policy teams. Libby is also the curator and editor of Verizon’s Public Policy blog, the hub for Verizon’s positions on regulatory and legal issues surrounding the information and communications technology industry. Before joining Verizon in 2012, Libby learned the digital communications craft as an analyst with a DC-area, social media PR firm, while moonlighting as a blogger. Libby lives and works in Washington DC, and is a Verizon FiOS enthusiast.