Edging across the digital divide
- By George A. Chidi Jr., IDG News Service
- Aug 21, 2000
More than half of the U.S. population has Internet access at home, according
to market research released Aug. 17.
Internet audience measurement reported for July by Nielsen/NetRatings,
a service of Nielsen Media Research Inc. and NetRatings Inc., found that
about 144 million people — 52 percent of the U.S. population — has home
access to the Internet. That's an increase of 35 percent over the 104.6
million people the company reported were online at home in July 1999.
The profile of Web surfers also is changing as the numbers online grow.
The home Web surfer is still more likely to be more affluent and better
educated than the average, but inexpensive, quality computers and a highly
competitive market for Internet service are helping to change the profile.
"If we were building a panel [of Internet users] years ago, it would
have looked like a bunch of white techie males," said Peggy O'Neill, an
Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. "The fact that you can get a decent
computer for an affordable price, that's helped. Very few computers are
sold today without Internet access. It's more women than men now, and the
controlling factor seems to be having kids in the house."
Quarterly research from market analysts at PC Data Inc. also shows about
52 percent of homes have Internet access.
"We're crossing the digital divide." said John Megahed, director of
research and analysis at PC Data Online. "Free [Internet service providers]
are helping to bridge the gap. As long as you have a computer and a modem,
you can get online." He said he expects the number of people online at home
to increase by 2 percent per month.
Megahed and O'Neill noted that there is a difference between the number
of people with home Internet access and the number of active Web surfers.
About 88 million people surf at least once per month at home, O'Neill said,
while Megahed put the figure at about 100 million. But both are well below
the actual number of residents with home Internet access.