The internet remains the domain of the well-off and technically competent because of an overall perception that the online service is too expensive.
A survey of 2,000 UK households, sponsored by BT and conducted by market research organisation Durlacher, found that while most people know about the internet, only 17 per cent of households had ever used it. Of those, the majority were in higher income brackets and living in higher-income regions.
According to the report, the major barriers to wider use are price, access speed and delivery mechanism.
Nick Gibson, internet analyst at Durlacher, said: ?The deployment of digital transmission technology across terrestrial, satellite and cable should create a number of opportunities to repackage and reprice internet access, and will be a crucial step to broadening the market.?
However, the potential for electronic commerce looks high, with half of those households with internet access at home or work willing to buy goods and services online. Books, CDs, holidays and software were the most popular products for this method of purchasing.
Meanwhile, a Gallop survey for IBM of over 600 European businesses puts German companies ahead of their British and French counterparts for use of the internet.
Nearly three-quarters of German companies use the internet, and nearly half of German business people have access to the Net from their homes, compared with only 28 per cent of French and 36 per cent of British business people with internet connectivity.
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