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Top cable providers now have more broadband subscribers than TV customers

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The top US cable providers now have more broadband subscribers than pay-TV customers, if new numbers from an analytics firm are correct. The milestone was reached last quarter, according to figures from Leichtman Research Group. Companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and Charter collectively had roughly 49,915,000 internet subscribers at the end of Q2 2014, which was enough to inch past the TV tally of 49,910,000. "With the addition of more than 30 million broadband subscribers over the past decade, cable providers have clearly expanded well beyond their roots in cable TV service," said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst at the research firm. To be clear, it's not as though people are necessarily choosing one over the other here; a wide majority of cable customers have a package that bundles the services together.

But the numbers reinforce just how important the ongoing debates around net neutrality and Comcast's takeover of Time Warner Cable are. If the merger is approved, Comcast will find itself in control of 40 percent of the US broadband market. And the decisions being made now could dramatically affect Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime Instant Video, streaming services that are in 47 percent of US households according to a previous Leichtman report. Those companies and their customers all have a vested interest in what's happening in Washington; at least Americans are feeling passionate about the future of their internet pipes. As Recode notes, it's really about time to start calling these providers internet companies instead of TV companies — and treat them accordingly.