Rise in Broadband Changes Consumers' Internet Habits

Two-Thirds of Home Internet Users Now Use Broadband

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Broadband penetration grew 13% last year to 95.5 million homes, which means 68% of active home-Internet users now use a broadband connection, according to a study released today by Nielsen/NetRatings.

Deep broadband penetration is changing consumers' use and expectations of the Internet as a central medium of their daily lives.
More hours in front of screen
Broadband Internet service has changed the way people use their computers. The average person now spends 30.5 hours per month using their home computer; two years ago the average person spent only 25.5 hours at their PC each month.

It is not just the high speed of broadband that has prompted significant changes in computer usage patterns, said Jon Gibs, senior director of media, Nielsen/NetRatings. Because broadband service is "always on," people using it do not have to make a special effort to log on to use the Web.

"The Internet has become an extension of the PC," Mr. Gibs said. "Broadband enables people to jump on and jump off rather than set aside a block of time to use the Internet."

Spike in streaming video
Increased broadband penetration has supported the growth of existing sites that support streaming media and encouraged the proliferation of new ones. MSN Video attracted 9 million visitors in February, 44% more than the preceding February. IFILM's audience increased 102% over the past year, and the traffic at Yahoo's video search site increased 148%.

In addition, in 2005, YouTube and Google Video emerged as major online video sharing sites. YouTube attracted 9 million unique viewers last month; Google Video brought in 6.2 million.

'Fat pipe' is key
It is unlikely so many people would visit these sites if they did not have broadband. According to Mr. Gibs, few users are willing to patiently wait for video and other streaming media to trickle to their computers via a dial-up connection. "The fatter the pipe, the more likely individuals are to download content," Mr. Gibs said.

While pay-per-download and subscription services have been successful (according to TV Week, between mid-October and mid-January, iTunes sold 8 million video downloads), most of the video content available online is advertiser supported -- with ads appearing either before or within the broadcast and as part of the site that hosts the video.

Video a must on news sites
Almost all news networks have some sort of video available through stream or download. "It's table stakes," Mr. Gibs said. "Video is something you need to do in order to stay in the online news and information business."

Mr. Gibs said persistent broadband use has also conferred a benefit to news and other frequently updated Internet sites by encouraging more users to subscribe to RSS feeds. Because broadband users are more likely to sit down at the computer many times a day for a minute or two, they are likely users of services that provide them with timely news and content alerts.

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