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Surfing at the speed of ... whatever's available

By Erica Hill
CNN Headline News

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To read more about the study, visit the Pew Internet and American Life Project external link

(CNN) -- If you're not using a high-speed Internet connection, it was probably a slow process for you to get to this story -- and this isn't a very slow Web site. For folks used to surfing at broadband speed, a dial-up connection seems like torture. 56k modem? Spare me!

For some of those who use that 56k connection on a regular basis, though, it apparently isn't so bad. In fact, many dial-up users -- a full 57 percent -- say they don't care about upgrading to broadband.

Broadband -- available through a cable modem or DSL -- allows data to travel from the Internet to your computer up to 20 times faster than a dialup connection.

The latest findings from the Pew Internet and American Life survey show broadband adoption is still growing steadily -- up 50 percent in the past year -- but isn't expected to stay that high.

You're probably saying, "Duh, Erica. Nothing can grow at the same rate forever. There are only so many adopters out there." Valid point.

However, the bigger issue might be availability.

"The challenges for the industry going forward are first to serve customers who want broadband but can't get it, and second, to find new customers," said John B. Horrigan, senior researcher at Pew Internet and American Life.

Meeting that first challenge is expensive. It requires new infrastructure to reach those who live where broadband service isn't available. According to the Pew survey, the folks in those areas want to upgrade the most.

Cable is more accessible at this point than the DSL services offered by local phone companies. That also translates into more cable-powered surfers. According to the Pew survey, though both technologies grew during the past year, cable users continue to outpace DSL users.

In March 2002, 63 percent of home broadband users connected via cable modem; 34 percent used a DSL service. One year later, 67 percent of home broadband users were connected via cable, while the number of DSL subscribers dropped to 28 percent.

However you log on, chances are if you are in the market for broadband, you'll subscribe when the time is right. Maybe the key to adoption is keeping expectations at speeds we use in the physical world -- not those of the "Internet Age."

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