Broadband service became a hot topic Mon at the Bear Stearns media confab, with numerous speakers addressing the increasingly competitive market. Weighing in first was Verizon, which expressed confidence its super-fast FiOS Internet service is snagging cable-modem customers. On average, only 21% of FiOS ‘Net adds are DSL customers migrating to faster speeds. “That says I think that a substantial number are cable modem customers… If you’re going to 10-20Mbps, you’re most likely not coming from no broadband at all,” Verizon CFO Doreen Toben said. FiOS Internet had 1.5mln subs at year end or 20% of homes open for sale. But Comcast co-CFO Michael Angelakis said continued growth for the MSO in HSD and phone have “offset [Verizon’s video gains] by a multiple.” Double-digit broadband growth is still possible, he said, noting Comcast’s position as the “price leader” for these services. Comcast‘s broadband penetration sits in the high 20s. For his part, News Corp chmn Rupert Murdoch said telcos are better positioned for long-term broadband success, noting what he sees as their superior plants. Murdoch foresees “great cash flow” for cable ops over the next 2-3 years but a huge cable plant upgrade spend to follow. Angelakis, however, said adoption of wideband tech via DOCSIS 3.0 specs will maintain speeds with relatively little cost. Meanwhile, Toben said many customers are waiting for FiOS TV to come to their area before they sign up for FiOS Internet—which helps by creating only 1 truck roll. Verizon’s on target for 35-40% FiOS ‘Net penetration by ’10, she said. While Toben said video service likely improves home phone line retention, she acknowledged that Verizon’s triple-play needs more scale before access lines get a big boost. She said where Verizon has offered video for more than 6 months, improvement in Y-over-Y line loss exceeds 200 basis points.

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