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Music and porn feed broadband boom

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Web sites with music, movies and porn are the main gainers from a broadband "boom" in Europe, say researchers.

The number of users with high speed connections has risen more than 130 percent in just over a year, with France, Spain and the Netherlands leading the way, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

Now 28 percent of Europe's Internet users have broadband, twice the rate recorded in April 2002. In France the rate is nearly 40 percent, with the Spanish and Dutch also ahead of America.

But the UK and Germany have seen the biggest rise in broadband as people who started out on narrowband upgrade, according to Thursday's study.

Globally, Asia-Pacific leads the way. In Hong Kong 82 percent of people online have broadband.

"Broadband is finally taking off," said Nielsen's European market analyst Tom Ewing.

"Next year we might well be approaching the tipping point, after which high-speed access will be the norm not the exception and the Web will be designed with the high-speed user in mind.

"Countries with the highest broadband takeup are those that are also growing rapidly in terms of online use in general.

"The countries where the Internet penetration is greatest and has been longer established, like the UK and Germany, have become used to dial-up connections, and broadband is being sold as an upgrade.

"But in France and Spain users have leapfrogged the technology and first-time Internet surfers are getting connected via broadband, by-passing the slower dial-up completely."

Researchers say broadband is changing the way Europeans use the Internet.

In Germany they found that people with narrowband connections spent seven-and-a-half hours online every month while those with broadband were logged on for 21 hours.

If current growth rates continue, more than 50 million Europeans will have high speed connections by March 2004 -- only three million behind the U.S., say analysts.

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