By Leslie Taylor
Broadband penetration grew 13 percent last year to 95.5 million homes, which means 68 percent of active home Internet users now use a broadband connection, according to a study released last week by Nielsen//NetRatings.
Deep broadband penetration is changing consumers’ use and expectations of the Internet as a central medium of their daily lives. It also 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 25.5 hours per month at his home machine.
It is not just broadband’s speed that has prompted significant changes in computer usage patterns, said Jon Gibs, senior director of media for Nielsen//NetRatings. Because broadband service is typically an “always on” connection, people using it need not make a special effort to log on to the Web. “The Internet has become an extension of the PC,” Mr. Gibs said.
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 percent more than the year before. And YouTube and Google Video have emerged as major online video sites.
While pay-per-download and subscription services have been successful, most of the video content available online is ad-supported.
Almost all news networks have some kind of video available. “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 (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. Broadband users are likely to use services that provide them with timely news and content alerts.