One in five users in the United States accesses the Internet with a cable modem, DSL (digital subscriber line) connection or other broadband device, up nearly 25 percent from the beginning of this year, according to a newly released study of Internet usage habits.
The study, conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, also found that broadband users tend to create and manage more content online, find a wider range of information, and engage in multiple Internet activities on a daily basis compared with their dial-up counterparts.
“Some uses of the high-speed connection are of the everyday sort — checking the time a movie is showing, finding a recipe, or settling a friendly argument about a factoid. Many are of greater weight, such as getting health care information off the Internet, taking an online course, or working at home,” the study said.
More Time, More Tasks
The study showed broadband users spend more time online on any given day than those with dial-up connections, with 82 percent of broadband subscribers accessing the Internet versus 58 percent of dial-up users.
Broadband users also spend more time online, with an average of 95 minutes on a typical day compared with 83 minutes for dial-up users. Researchers noted it is also likely that broadband users tend to multitask during that time period, with multiple windows open on their screen.
Cable Wins – So Far
In terms of how broadband consumers access the Internet, cable TV modems scored highest among survey respondents, with 71 percent. Twenty-seven percent of broadband users accessed the Internet via DSL. Other broadband access methods, including wireless and satellite, made up just 2 percent of the total.
The study noted that home broadband users are usually early adopters of technology, as well as wealthy, educated and male.
“Our research shows that even though these demographic characteristics are factors in the broadband difference, the high-speed connection matters most in spurring these online Americans to new levels of Internet use,” the study said.
Adoption, Deployment Up
Matthew Davis, director of broadband access technologies at the Yankee Group, told the E-Commerce Times that his group has found broadband adoption to be fairly steady since widespread deployment has occurred.
“I know there was some talk at the beginning of this year and the end of last year that broadband adoption was slowing, but it’s been fairly consistent growth,” said Davis.
He noted that until recently, access inhibited broadband growth because many U.S. cities and towns did not have broadband options of any kind. Now that telephone and cable companies have installed the service in a more widespread fashion, the next barrier to consumer sign-on is price.
“In fact, we believe that price is going to be the next key barrier. This last year [the price point] has risen to an average of $45 to $50. Until the price comes down, much closer to the $30 mark, I think that will be the primary bottleneck,” said Davis.
Manipulation of Content
Besides increased Internet use, the Pew study found that nearly 40 percent of broadband users have created content online, whether by posting to bulletin boards or creating Web diaries, and roughly 16 percent create content on a daily basis.
In addition, 43 percent of broadband users regularly share files with others, and the same percentage display or develop photos online.
The study credited the always-on nature of broadband as one reason it has been so widely adopted, noting that when they do not have to reconnect constantly, users perform a wider variety of tasks online and do so more often.
Davis said the Yankee Group found similar results in previous broadband user surveys that asked consumers why they subscribed to high-speed service.
“In my opinion, that’s one of the most interesting findings we’ve had. I think most of us would think faster speed would be the driver, but repeatedly, ‘always-on’ beat faster speeds,” Davis said.
This study is somehow right on the mark. However, it fails to address the major reasons for the increasing disparity between deployment of cable modem and various flavors of DSL. While price is a factor, the main problem with DSL is lack of availability. A big chunk of the country has no DSL service, and cable modem has simply moved in nicely thanks in large part to the ubiquitous cable service providers. Contrary to the DSL optimists, this gap is likely to increase rather than shrink. Also, the demise or shall we say operational difficulties of numerous DSL providers has actually created less hope that the lead by cable modem will be reduced any time soon.