Broadband Surges in 2002, But Narrowband Declines

Broadband access in the United States surged in 2002, growing fastest among both the oldest Internet users and the youngest, according to a new report by Nielsen/NetRatings.

The company Wednesday reported that broadband access at home posted a 59 percent year-over-year increase in 2002, bringing the total number of U.S. users who accessed the Web via high-speed connections to more than 33.6 million in Dec. 2002.

While broadband saw its fortunes rising, narrowband connections began to lose ground in 2002, declining 10 percent during the course of the year to about 74.4 million users by the end of December.

“2002 marked an entire year of decline for narrowband usage at home,” said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. “As the broadband infrastructure continues to expand across the U.S., we expect to see the mainstream online population convert to higher speeds.”

Nielsen/NetRatings also found that the fastest growing user population for broadband access in the U.S. was composed of 55- to 64-year-olds, which surged 78 percent to about 2.9 million in 2002. Not far behind were 50- to 54-year-olds (climbing 75 percent to 3.1 million), and 65- to 99-year-olds (climbing 67 percent to 1.2 million).

“Members of Generation A have traditionally been late adopters of the Internet and technology overall, but it looks like this surfing demographic is finally catching the high-speed wave,” Bloom said. “Cost is still an issue for many Web users looking to upgrade to fatter pipes, especially the senior population. Barriers such as fixed incomes and lack of familiarity with online technology and community pose difficult obstacles.”

The next fastest growing populations are some of the Internet’s youngest users, with 12- to 17-year-olds growing 66 percent to 4.1 million, and 2- to 11-year-olds growing 62 percent to 2.9 million. The latter group shared the same growth rate with 35- to 49-year-olds, who climbed to 10.1 million users over the course of the year.

The slowest growing groups were 18- to 20-year-olds, who spiked 47 percent to 1.6 million over the course of the year; 25- to 34-year-olds who grew 45 percent to 5.8 million; and 21- to 24-year-olds brought up the rear, growing 24 percent to 1.4 million.

Nielsen/NetRatings also found that broadband users spent more time online than narrowband users, and also conducted more online visits and viewed more Web pages during a month. The company said broadband users averaged 17 hours and 20 minutes online in December, while dial-up users averaged less than 10 hours in the same period. Additionally, Nieslen/NetRatings said broadband users made about 15 more visits to the Internet per month than their narrowband counterparts, and viewed an average of 1,300 pages per person, more than double the number of pages viewed by narrowband users.

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