Porn driving fast Net access - study

 

High-speed internet access in Europe continues to grow, boosted by consumer demand for file-sharing, pornography and music, according to a new study.

Market research firm Nielsen/ Netratings shows European surfers using fast broadband internet connections at home grew by 136 per cent in the year ending April 2003. Beneficiaries of the boom are entertainment sites, in particular adult entertainment, Netratings said.

"The adult entertainment sector has increased its reach year- on-year in all European markets except Italy, where, not coincidentally, broadband access is the relative lowest in Europe," the report said. Ireland was not included in the study.

The strong demand for broadband is a good news-bad news scenario. For example, major music labels decry the rampant trade of copyright-protected songs, an activity that has surged as home users get faster internet connections.

Free file-sharing services such as Kazaa and Grokster have become a hit with broadband-equipped music fans who can speedily download large music files. The labels have tried to shut down the services as they blame them for the decline in recorded music sales, which could last a few more years, executives say.

Meanwhile, internet service providers (ISPs) including T-Online, Wanadoo and BT OpenWorld, are banking heavily on widescale deployment of higher-margin broadband access.

The biggest gainer in the past year is Britain where broadband penetration has more than tripled to 3.7 million users. The UK remains second from the bottom in Europe in terms of broadband penetration though, with 21.6 percent of all net users on broadband. In Italy, broadband penetration is at 16.4 per cent, or 1.8 million. France, Spain and the Netherlands are the top three, with 39 per cent, 37.2 per cent and 36.6 per cent of the their Net users, respectively, on a high-speed connection.

In comparison, the US is the world's broadband leader with 38 million, or 35 per cent of Net users, on broadband. The biggest markets in terms of penetration are in Asia.

If current rates continue, there will be over 53 million Europeans with broadband, five million shy of the US, by April 2004, NetRatings said.