For the first time, more than half of the U.S. population can access the World Wide Web at home, according to new data that underscore how central the Internet has become to the daily lives of most Americans.
Fifty-two percent of the population had home Internet access in July, according to Nielsen NetRatings, an audience measurement service that collects data from 65,000 Internet users using random-digit telephone dialing. The margin of error for the survey is 2 to 3 percentage points.
The number of people with home access rose 35 percent during the past year, from 106.3 million in July 1999 to 144 million last month. But only 88.2 million, about 61 percent, of Americans with access actually surfed online.
Falling personal-computer prices and competitive rates for high-speed Internet access are driving demand for Internet access, Sean Kaldor, NetRatings Inc.'s vice president of e-commerce, said in a statement.
"Internet access is growing dramatically each day due to cheaper access, making it possible for the mainstream consumer to log on," Kaldor said.
The data show Americans are spending more time online than they did a year ago. The average user spent 9 hours 41 minutes online in July 2000, a 26 percent increase from July 1999 when users spent an average of 7 hours 39 minutes online.
The data also revealed people are spending more time looking at fewer Web sites. While average page views per month doubled over the past year, from 353 to 709, the average number of sites that users visited declined from 12 to 10 in the same period.
"This means the barrier to entry is higher for new Internet ventures as companies vie for surfers' attention," Kaldor said. "This underscores the power of branding online, as companies like Amazon.com have effectively leveraged their brand to amass a captive and loyal audience."
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