One-fifth of American households now have broadband internet access, according to the latest report from Jupiter Research.

By the end of 2003, some 21.5 million homes accessed the web via high-speed connections. And based on current trends, Jupiter predicts that 46m households will have switched to broadband by 2008 -- around half the online population and 40% of all US households.

The report suggests the high-speed web market is becoming more competitive, with telephone and cable companies finally embarking on aggressive marketing pushes for their broadband offerings.

However, Jupiter argues that prices still need to come down to tempt more people to make the switch. It believes the cost of high-speed internet lines cannot exceed $40 (€32; £22) a month.

"Although the price of broadband moved closer to being right in 2003, all service providers must reevaluate the economics of low-cost broadband offerings to maintain the pace of consumer demand in 2004," urged Joe Laszlo, a senior analyst at Jupiter.

That said, the growth of online video, music and game offerings will add to broadband's attraction. As a result, despite the trend towards low-price packages, many operators this year will begin to offer more content -- a factor that will become an increasingly important point of differentiation between ISPs.

Data sourced from: Jupiter Research; additional content by WARC staff