Speed Boost in the Boonies

The go-go days for broadband in the U.S. seem to be over, as evidenced by the less-than-stellar numbers posted by the big broadband providers for the most recent quarter, especially Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC). The DSL providers are also facing challenging times, but one group is doing better than the rest: independent and regional phone companies who provide services to rural areas and small- and medium-sized towns and cities.

The net adds of the big four regional players — Embarq (EQ), Citizens (CZN), CenturyTel (CTL) and WindStream (WIN) were down 13.7 percent in the third quarter from the year-ago period, but the overall DSL industry net adds are down 22 percent for the period, according to UBS Research. If you took the terrible Embarq out of the equation, the declines were relatively modest, UBS notes.

Nevertheless, the regional telcos want to keep this momentum intact by offering better prices and higher speeds — in fact, much better prices and much higher speeds — than their larger counterparts. Here is what they have planned.

1. Embarq, which saw a 28.6 percent decline in its DSL adds, is going to start offering 10-megabit-per-second connections (currently available in Las Vegas) to 40 percent of its total access lines, which it hopes to make happen by the first quarter of 2008.
2. CenturyTel is going to make a big 10 Mbps push and is hoping to cover 40 percent of its region by end of 2007.
3. Citizens is offering free PCs and trying to migrate its 88,000 dial-up subscribers to DSL.
4. WindStream is going to offer 10 Mbps to 25 percent of its customer base and upgrade its entire DSL network to 3 Mbps by the first quarter of 2008.

If you have news about ISP price changes, speed boosts or problems, drop us a note at info at gigaom dot com.