Home Broadband Increase Boosts Net User Content

Broadband access in U.S. homes is rising fast, fueling the amount of content users are posting online, such as blogs, videos, photos and webpages, a new study has found.

The number of U.S. residents with broadband access at home jumped 40 percent to 84 million between March 2005 and March 2006, double the growth rate of the previous 12-month period, according to the study "Home Broadband Adoption 2006" by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

This broadband adoption growth in homes is having a direct impact on the amount of content users are posting online. While 35 percent of all Internet users have posted content online, 42 percent of home broadband users have done so. Among home users who have posted content online, 73 percent have a broadband connection.

"Having a fast, always-on Internet connection at home is associated with users’ posting content to the Internet and thereby shaping the environment of cyberspace," reads the study, authored by John B. Horrigan, the organization’s associate director for research.

User contributions are behind some of today’s hottest Internet services, such as video-sharing sites like YouTube, social networks such as MySpace and blog publishers such as Microsoft’s MSN Spaces.

Even search engines are taking advantage of contributions from users. For example, Yahoo has built a search engine called Yahoo Answers whose index is made up of explanations users post to answer each other’s questions.

Search engines have also started to leverage services that let users save and categorize links to websites and share these links with others, a phenomenon known as social bookmarking and tagging. Yahoo last year acquired del.icio.us, generally considered a pioneer in this space, and most major search engines, including Google and Ask.com, provide similar services, which they say improves the relevance of their search results.

Other interesting findings from the Pew study include:

  • By March 2006, 42 percent of U.S. adults had a broadband connection at home, up from 30 percent in March 2005.

  • DSL is the preferred broadband service type, with 50 percent of all connections, while cable modem access captured a 41 percent share and fixed wireless 8 percent. In March 2003, the story was much different, with 67 percent of connections via cable modems, and only 28 percent via DSL.

  • A clue to DSL’s rising popularity is in cost. As of December 2005, DSL cost on average $32 per month, while cable modem access cost an average of $41 per month. In February 2004, the gap was narrower: DSL cost an average of $38 per month, and cable modem access an average of $41 per month.

  • Despite the increase in home broadband adoption, 60 percent of current dial-up Internet access users say they aren’t interested in switching to a high-speed connection. Reasons cited include having a fast connection at work or being unwilling to pay more. Dial-up Internet access cost on average $18 per month in December 2005, down from $23 in February 2004.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a nonprofit organization devoted to investigating the impact of the Internet on people’s lives through surveys, interviews and research. It is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts, based in Washington, D.C.

-Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service

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