Broadband Growth Continues 2Q 2021

Leichtman Research Group recently released the broadband customer statistics for the end of the second quarter of 2021 for the largest cable and telephone companies. LRG compiles most of these numbers from the statistics provided to stockholders other than for Cox, which is estimated. Leichtman says this group of companies represents 96% of all US landline broadband customers.

The 891,525 net broadband customer additions is a drop from the first quarter additions of 1,020,097 new customers.

 1Q 2021 1Q Change % Change  
Comcast 31,388,000 354,000 1.1%  
Charter 29,634,000 400,000 1.4%  
AT&T 15,481,000 46,000 0.3%  
Verizon 7,263,000 70,000 1.0%  
Cox 5,485,000 50,000 0.9%  
CenturyLink 4,666,000 (62,000) -1.3%  
Altice 4,401,300 200 0.0%  
Frontier 2,798,000 (22,000) -0.8%  
Mediacom 1,468,000 14,000 1.0%  
Windstream 1,131,800 9,500 0.8%  
Cable ONE 1,017,000 14,000 1.4%  
WOW! 826,300 3,400 0.4%  
Atlantic Broadband 517,004 6,847 1.3%  
TDS 513,600 11,900 2.4%  
Cincinnati Bell 437,800 200 0.0%  
Consolidated 393,480 (4,522) -1.1%  
107,422,131 891,525 0.8%  
Total Cable 74,737,451 842,447 1.1%  
Total Telco 32,684,680 58,122 0.2%  

As we’ve seen for several years, Comcast and Charter are taking most of the new customers in the industry and together captured 754,000 new customers, or 85% of the net customers added for the quarter. The cable companies collectively added 842,447 customers in the fourth quarter compared to 58,122 for the telcos. If the growth rate so far this year is sustained, the industry will add around 3.8 million customers this year, a drop from the 4.8 million new broadband customers added in 2020.

There are some interesting numbers inside this report. AT&T’s new emphasis on building fiber seems to be paying off as the company added 97,000 net new customers this year. That’s extraordinary considering that the company stopped installed new DSL customers – the company lost 1 million DSL customers last year, and this year the loss is likely to be higher. The third highest customer growth for ISPs comes from Verizon, which has added 134,000 new customers for the year.

We are perhaps seeing why CenturyLink is selling a big pile of copper assets – the company lost a net of 101,000 broadband customers so far this year and continues to get clobbered on DSL. CenturyLink surpassed Frontier as the biggest percentage loser of customers for the year, although Frontier continues to lose DSL customers rapidly as well.

The biggest percentage gainer for the quarter is TDS, with quarterly growth of 2.4%. For those not familiar with the company, about half of its customers are on copper and fiber, with the rest served with cable technology.

It’s getting harder to understand the dynamics behind broadband growth. For instance, the second quarter included the first wave of low-income customers added with the EBB subsidy program that was funded by the American Recovery Plan Act. Only the ISPs know how much of the growth this year came from that plan.

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