The number of broadband DSL subscribers in the U.S. jumped 13% in the first quarter of 2004, growing by 1.2 million customers to a new high of 10.6 million, according to figures released earlier this month by the DSL Forum.The DSL subscriber figures are up sharply from last year, when 6.9 million DSL subscribers were recorded in the first quarter of 2003. These figures were prepared for the DSL Forum by telecommunications analyst firm, Point Topic.The U.S. is ranked third in terms of the number of DSL subscribers, lagging China and Japan for worldwide leadership. China has 13.9 million DSL subscribers, while Japan has 11.2 million DSL subscribers.Around the world, DSL is gaining popularity. Currently, 73.4 million people subscribe to DSL services around the globe. Of those subscribers, 9.5 million signed up during the first quarter of 2004, which set new records in monthly sign ups."This is the biggest-ever quarterly addition to the global DSL subscriber figures, representing growth of nearly 15%," said Tom Starr, president of the DSL Forum. "It is also the third consecutive quarter to produce a record-breaking subscriber increase - this time almost double that of the same period in 2003."Starr says the growth of DSL is an important trend for corporate network managers because it affects their telework strategies for employees as well as affecting online communications with consumers of their products."There is strong evidence of the growing popularity of high-speed broadband DSL connections among businesses and consumers for e-mail, shopping, online entertainment services, telecommuting and more," Starr said.As recently as 2002, the U.S. ranked first in DSL deployment. Japan leaped ahead to first place a year ago, and China surpassed Japan in the final months of 2003.DSL has much more opportunity to grow, too, with DSL penetration of phone lines in the U.S. at just 5.6%.