Broadband Growth Continues 3Q 2021

Leichtman Research Group recently released the broadband customer statistics for the end of the third 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 632,181 net broadband customer additions represent a significant drop from the first quarter additions this year of over one million new customers.

 3Q 2021 3Q Change % Change  
Comcast 31,688,000 300,000 1.0%  
Charter 29,899,000 265,000 0.9%  
AT&T 15,510,000 29,000 0.2%  
Verizon 7,337,000 74,000 1.0%  
Cox 5,510,000 25,000 0.5%  
CenturyLink 4,589,000 (77,000) -1.7%  
Altice 4,388,100 (13,200) -0.3%  
Frontier 2,789,000 (9,000) -0.3%  
Mediacom 1,466,000 (2,000) -0.1%  
Windstream 1,147,000 15,200 1.3%  
Cable ONE 1,030,000 13,000 1.3%  
Atlantic Broadband 717,000 3,000 0.4%  
TDS 522,800 9,200 1.8%  
WOW! 509,500 1,600 0.3%  
Cincinnati Bell 439,000 1,200 0.3%  
Consolidated 390,661 (2,819) -0.7%  
    Total 107,932,061 632,181 0.6%  
Total Cable 75,207,600 592,400 0.8%  
Total Telco 32,724,461 39,781 0.1%  

As we’ve seen for several years, Comcast and Charter are taking most of the new customers in the industry and together captured 565,000 new customers, or 89% of the net customers added for the quarter. All cable companies collectively added 592,400 customers in the fourth quarter compared to 39,781 for the telcos. If the current quarter growth rate continues for the fourth quarter the industry will add around 3 million customers this year, a big 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 has added 126,000 net new customers this year. That’s extraordinary considering that the company stopped installing new DSL customers in 2020. The third highest customer growth for ISPs comes from Verizon, which has added 74,000 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 178,000 broadband customers so far this year and continues to get clobbered on DSL.

For the second straight quarter, the biggest percentage growth comes from TDS, with quarterly growth of 1.8%. For those not familiar with the company, about half of its customers are on copper and fiber, with the rest served with cable technology.

I have to wonder how much of the growth in the quarter comes from enrolling customers in the FCC’s EBB plan. Around 2.9 million homes enrolled in the discount plan in the third quarter. While many of these are homes would have had existing broadband, there must be a sizable number of new customers as well. It would be interesting to how much growth the industry would have had absent that subsidy program.

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