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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 01:05 GMT
Net's dark side dents broadband
Computer user
People like to be creative online, the study suggests
People are so fed up with spam, porn and viruses that they are put off high-speed broadband, says a study.

The telecoms industry could do more to help users avoid the "dark side" of the net and pitfalls, says the study by think tank the Work Foundation

They also need to do more to understand what people want to do with broadband to encourage take-up.

The UK is still only seventh in global broadband take-up, despite the official push to be a world leader.


"Ordinary people are promised that broadband makes the internet better," said one of the report's authors James Crabtree from The Work Foundation's iSociety project.

"In fact it sometimes leads to a disaster on the desktop which makes people consider stopping using the net altogether."

During the year in which the research was conducted, these problems became a huge concern for people, particularly after a summer of viruses.

Companies need to help people find new ways to create and share
James Crabtree, iSociety

The broadband industry largely misunderstands what people actually want out of their broadband connection too, the report suggests.

"The industry has this impression broadband allows computers to be like clever TV and that people want to sit there consuming content," Mr Crabtree told BBC News Online.

"But we have no evidence this is really true yet."

Instead, the report showed people like to interact socially and do creative things with broadband, instead of being passive.

People need to be shown the social and community benefits that broadband can offer which can enrich their everyday lives, according to co-producers of the report, the Broadband Stakeholder Group (BSG).

"What we have been doing so far is selling broadband to people who have clear idea what they want it for," said Anthony Walker from the BSG.

"If we want to maintain the rate of growth for broadband, we need to get a new message across that makes broadband relevant to people who aren't already heavy net users."

Sharing, caring

The broadband industry needs to listen more to people about what they want to do online so they can give them ways to get the best out of broadband, the report suggest.

Activities which have little to do with fast download speeds, but more about sharing and getting family and friends talking really showed the true benefits of such a connection.

Computer cables
Users need more help with installation

"In a world where there isn't much to do but shop, you look for a thing that allows you to be creative," said Mr Crabtree.

"Broadband was at its best when it allowed people to create things for themselves."

The report, Fat Pipes, Connected People, suggests some of the best example of this included downloading and sending friends and family digital pictures and competing to see who could get the best deal on net auction sites.

"Companies need to help people find new ways to create and share," said Mr Crabtree.

They also need to get better at supporting users when things go wrong with their broadband, during the installation process for example.

But they also need to be more efficient in helping people avoid "the dark side of the net", like spam and chatroom dangers.

The Fat Pipes, Connected People research was presented at the BSG annual conference in London this week.

James Crabtree, The Work Foundation
"Ordinary users are just getting fed up"

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