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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Broadband Use Surpasses Dial-Up in U.S.

(via apnews) Broadband use at home has surpassed that of dial-up in the United States, reaching 53 percent of residential Web users in October, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. For now, what people do online hasn't changed as much as its frequency and duration, although some people are beginning to make telephone calls on the Internet or use cheap webcams for video chatting. Surveys from the Pew Internet and American Life Project find that 69 percent of broadband users go online on a typical day, compared with 51 percent for dial-up. Broadband users who went online averaged 107 minutes surfing the Web, checking e-mail and otherwise engaged, 21 minutes longer than dial-up users. Taking advantage of their always-on connection, they practice "infosnacking."

- Telephone books? Gathering dust on the shelf.
- Atlases? What are they?
- Communal behavior also is tempered by the broadband effect.

Family members arguing a point over dinner are more apt, if they have broadband, to "look it up online rather than continue to yell at each other," said Lee Rainie, Pew's director. TiVo Inc. had such networks in mind in designing features for its popular digital video recorder. Already, users can schedule recordings online - from the office, say. But unless they have broadband, the updates can take up to a day to make. TiVo is soon expected to launch a service that lets users move recorded programs to laptops. In the future, TiVo spokeswoman Kathryn Kelly said, users will be able to send programs to other recorders they own, in a vacation home, for instance. Microsoft Corp. recommends broadband for its PCs running Windows XP Media Center Edition, which lets users view photos and movies on regular TVs or listen on a stereo system to music stored on a hard drive.

Content creators, meanwhile, find the broadband audience now big enough to make it worthwhile to produce resource-hungry features. Amazon.com commissioned five short films to view for free at its site this holiday season. Americans are hardly pioneers, however, in embracing broadband. The United States trailed 12 of the 15 top economies, including Canada, in broadband penetration, according to a September report from U.N. International Telecommunication Union analyzing 2003 data. dvSouth Korea topped the list at more than double the U.S. rate. Broadband helped spur a social and political renaissance in South Korea, where thousands of citizens contribute to an alternative news site called OhmyNews,shaking the traditional media and political establishments. In sixth-ranked Denmark, Internet-based telephones have become popular as they allow customers to avoid per-minute local phone charges, said John Strand, a telecommunications consultant in Copenhagen.
Broadband does have its share of headaches
. Computers now stay connected 24 hours a day, extending the window of exploitability by hackers. And with only one or two companies in many markets controlling the main pipelines into the home, consumer advocates fear they might give preferential treatment to content from business partners, or make competitors' content difficult to find or slow to load.

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