Broadband Penetration Rises, But Growth May Flatten, Pew Study Says

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High-speed Internet access rose 50 percent from March 2002 to March 2003, but consumer adoption of broadband may be flattening, according to a study released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

As of the end of March, 31 percent of home Internet users had a high-speed connection, up from 21 percent in March 2002, according to Pew, meaning about 30 million people have broadband access at home.

Broadband penetration is important to online marketers because high-speed Internet users can more easily view graphically rich ads with sound, which tend to drive awareness and response more effectively.

However, the percentage of veteran Internet users who want broadband appears to be falling.

Forty-three percent of dial-up users with six or more years of online experience surveyed in March 2003 said they want broadband access, down from 53 percent in March 2002.

The numbers indicate that broadband providers attracted the easiest-to-reach dial-up users last year.

However, though veteran dial-up users' demand for broadband is lower than it was a year ago, it is still higher than the 30 percent of dial-up users who have been online for three years or less who said they'd like high-speed access, indicating that many dial-up users' attitude toward broadband changes with time.

Also, 13 percent of dial-up users who said they want broadband access show heavy information-gathering-and-posting behavior, indicating they'll migrate to high-speed access quickly, the report said.

Most dial-up users overall, however -- 57 percent of those surveyed by Pew -- said in March 2003 that they have no interest in a high-speed connection at home, while 38 percent said they would like to move to broadband.

The numbers reverse in rural areas, Pew said. Sixty-one percent of those who said high-speed Internet access is not locally available would like to upgrade, while 35 percent said they were content with dial-up access.

"It seems that those who want broadband the most are those who can't get it," the report said.

In other findings, the vast majority of high-speed Internet users are cable modem subscribers, Pew said. About 21 million home broadband users accessed the Internet via cable modem in March 2003, up from 13 million a year earlier. DSL, or digital subscriber line, users grew from 7 million to 9 million in that period, the report said. The number of subscribers to wireless or fixed-satellite high-speed access services rose from just under 500,000 in 2002 to 1.4 million in 2003.

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