BOSTON (08/17/2000) - More than half of the U.S. population now has Internet access at home, according to market research released ThursdayInternet 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, an increase of 35 percent over the 104.6 million people the company reported were online at home in July last year.
Passing the 50 percent mark is a milestone of sorts, something solid for technology investors shaken in this year's market upheavals to hold on to, said Peggy O'Neill, an Internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings. "It's another reassuring sign to Wall Street that this isn't just a flash in the pan, that the Internet isn't going away," she said.
The profile of Web surfers is also changing as the numbers online grow, she said. The U.S. 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 is helping to change the profile, O'Neill said.
"If we were building a panel (of Internet users) years ago, it would have looked like a bunch of white techie males," she said. "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 ISPs (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.
Both 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.
Nielsen Media Research, in New York, can be reached at +1-212-907-4220.
NetRatings Inc., in Milpitas, California, can be reached at +1-408-957-0487.
Nielsen//NetRatings is at http://www.nielsen-netratings.com/. PC Data Online, in Reston, Virginia, can be reached at +1-703-995-6200 or on the Web at http://www.pcdataonline.com/.