More than half of all U.S. residential Internet users reached the Web via fast broadband connections in July, outpacing use of slower, dial-up connections for the first time, market researcher Nielsen//NetRatings said on Wednesday.


Sixty-three million Web users connected to the Internet via home broadband links, which include high-speed connections over cable television networks or upgraded phone lines using technologies like ISDN or DSL, it said.



That amounts to 51 percent of U.S. residential users, up from 49 percent in June and from 38 percent just a year earlier. Sixty-one million, or 49 percent of residential users, us narrowband hookups, down from 62 percent last July, Nielsen//NetRatings said.



Faster access times allow users to view a range of graphically richer content, including movies and more sophisticated advertising.



Narrowband connections are defined as links with speeds between 14,400 to 56,000 bits per second, typically delivered over conventional dial-up phone lines. They were critical to the first generation of commercial Internet use a decade ago.



The milestone was crossed in terms of users, but the actual number of U.S. households with broadband Internet connections remains significantly less, according to Bruce Leichtman, the principal analyst for market research firm Leichtman Research. This reflects the difference between users and subscribers, he said.



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