Perhaps the most-significant finding contained in the latest Federal Communications Commission data on voice lines is that total voice lines in service actually grew in 2008, reversing a declining trend since 2000. That has to rank as among the biggest bits of news to occur in the wireline voice market since 2000.

We will have to wait for 2009 data to see whether this is a new trend or an anomoly. Still, the news is that, for the first time since 2000, total fixed voice lines in service have grown, rather than contracted.

That doesn’t mean the trend has reversed for incumbent telcos, though. All of the gain came from non-traditional suppliers, either cable companies or competitive local exchange carriers. But it seems clear cable companies were the clear winners.

The big jump between June 2008 and December 2008 were accounts provided over coaxial cable lines used by cable firms. Between June and December, coaxial cable VoIP accounts increased from slightly less than 10 million to 20 million.

At year-end 2008, there were 141 million end-user switched access lines in service and 21 million

VoIP subscriptions in the United States, or about 162 million wireline retail local telephone service connections in total.

Of these, 97 million were residential connections and 65 million were business connections.

By technology and customer type, the 162 million wireline retail local telephone service connections were: 48 percent residential switched access lines, 39 percent business switched access lines, 12 percent residential VoIP subscriptions, and one percent business VoIP subscriptions.

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