The United States, forever fretful about losing its competitiveness to the mainland, has yet another reason to worry - the number of Chinese broadband users is on pace to exceed the number in the US within two years. There is little doubt that having a citizenry connected to high-speed internet is a competitive differentiator. The future of communications - including entertainment and electronic commerce - will be centred on broadband. According to market researcher iSuppli, the mainland will have 34 million subscribers by year-end, compared with 39 million in the US. By the end of 2007, the mainland will have 57 million compared with 54 million for the US and the lead will only grow wider. 'In the networked economy of today and tomorrow, national broadband subscriber rolls represent a key metric determining a country's competitiveness,' analyst Steve Rago said. Regulatory issues in the US had stifled broadband growth, he said. He advised minimal regulations for voice over internet protocol technology and delivery of video Web. Also, The US government should consider tax incentives or other measures to push network upgrades. It remains to be seen whether the mainland will follow a similar course, but the central government is giving the internet special attention.