President Bush on Friday urged that affordable high-speed Internet access known as broadband be available to all Americans by 2007.

"We ought to have universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," Bush said in a speech focusing mostly on homeownership. "And then we ought to make sure that as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices..."

Telephone and cable television companies like Verizon Communications and Comcast Corp. have been competing fiercely to sign up customers to high-speed Internet service, which is seen as a lucrative market.

There is already a fund that subsidizes telephone service in rural areas and for those who cannot afford it. Policymakers have debated whether the Universal Service Fund should also subsidize Internet access to American homes.

They have also been debating what regulations should apply to broadband services. Telephone companies that dominate a market have to share their networks with rivals for telephone service and there have been extensive debates about whether those rules should apply to broadband.

Cable companies do not presently have to share their networks with rivals but some allow subscribers to have an alternative Internet service provider.

There were about 20.6 million homes and small businesses that subscribe to high-speed Internet as of June 2003, the latest data available from the Federal Communications Commission.

More consumers have signed up for the broadband from cable companies, with about 13.7 million lines compared to 7.7 million using telephone companies' digital subscriber line services.


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