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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 01:50 GMT 02:50 UK
Porn and music drive broadband
Topless club in Holland
Adult content is booming alongside broadband
High-speed net access in Europe is growing fast, boosted by demand for porn and music, a study finds.

The numbers of European surfers using high-speed net connections grew by 136% in the last year, according to internet measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

File-sharing sites and adult content pull the biggest audiences among broadband surfers.

The adult entertainment sector has increased its reach in all European markets except Italy, where broadband take-up is the lowest in Europe.

Slow coach UK

Despite a huge growth curve, the UK is still lagging behind Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden in the broadband league table.

While the UK tops the league table for growth, coming in at a heady 235%, just 20% of the people online are connected to a fast net service.

Both France and Spain have nearly 40% of net users converted to broadband service.

Computer user browses the internet
Tariffs that are capped to a certain level and then a charge per data download is as inevitable as night follows day if operators don't want to go bust
Professor Jim Norton, broadband expert
Only Italy has a lower penetration of broadband users than the UK at around 15%.

The change in the way people connect to the net has meant shifts in their usage of online services.

People with broadband spend more time online, using the web more often and visiting more websites than their dial-up counterparts.

It will come as no surprise that file-sharing sites and adult content rule the roost in terms of the content that broadband users are searching for.

Other music and film sites are also popular.

Data charges

"The internet is all about access," said Tom Ewing, an analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.

"Initially it was about access to information and people, then it widened to provide access to goods and services and now with broadband it is able to expand further to provide easy access to entertainment," he said.

Experts predict that the amount of bandwidth being used up by file-sharing and other data-rich services will lead inevitable to broadband providers charging extra for downloads.

"Tariffs that are capped to a certain level and then a charge per data download is as inevitable as night follows day if operators don't want to go bust," said Professor Jim Norton, independent consultant and former director of the Cabinet Office's e-commerce team.

"It will be an interesting challenge for operators to move from an all-you-can eat unlimited access model to a capped tariff.

"The broadband industry is going through an education and consumers need to know that the move up to a capped service means improved service," he said.

Up to 60% of broadband traffic is thought to be used up in file-sharing activities and the knock-on bandwidth cost for operators is huge.

Attempts by UK cable firm NTL to cap the amount of bandwidth users have access to have not gone down well with users and the firm has yet to implement its stricter guidelines.

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