Broadband vendors could be holding back the mass take-up of broadband because they’re promoting the wrong benefits, according to a report into broadband usage patterns.

Contrary to current received wisdom it isn’t speed and an always-on connection that transforms broadband internet usage, the study said.

Presenting their findings at last week’s Building Broadband Britain conference, researchers on behalf of industry think tank The Work Foundation, discovered that broadband’s main benefit was changing people’s perception of time.

"Broadband is about timeless time," said James Crabtree, one of the authors of the report. "Broadband is sold as a sprint, but experienced as a saunter," he said.

"Many users don’t get the Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear image of snapping knicker elastic at high speed," said co-author Simon Roberts. "Broadband can be taking it easy," he said.

Roberts said broadband had more in common with Cadbury’s Caramel and Werther’s Original, than fast cars.

The in-depth anthropological study, which examined broadband usage in the home and among small businesses, also found that 'always on' benefits were a red herring, because 'always on' doesn’t equal 'always there'.

Resurrecting age-old concerns about technophobia, the report concluded that "household PCs are switched off, shut away, out of sight, out of mind under-used and undervalued".