E-envoy dismisses Net usage report

The E-envoy's office has dismissed an Oftel study that suggests Internet use may have peaked in the UK.

The E-envoy's office has dismissed an Oftel study that suggests Internet use may have peaked in the UK.

The report reveals that the number of UK homes connected to the Internet has dropped from 40% in May to 39% in August. This is the first recorded drop since Oftel records began in 1999.

Speculation is rife that home use of the Internet may have reached saturation, but the E-envoy's office is quick to dismiss any hurried conclusions.

A spokesman said the report explicitly accounted for a single quarter's results. He claimed that it was still to early to tell whether the results represent a long-term trend". He observed that the margin of error in the Oftel figure was 2%-4% and said the 'drop' was well within the margin of error. "I would urge caution against jumping to any rash conclusions," he said.

The spokesman conceded that any news of a drop or even a slowdown in the growth of home Internet use must bring into question the Government's initiatives for realising its goal of a "truly inclusive information society".

Projects aimed at bridging the digital divide include the Computers Within Reach Initiative that set out to provide low-cost recycled PCs to 100,000 low-income families.

The Wired-Up Communities project was similarly set up to provide Internet access to deprived communities. The Government has also used tax breaks to encourage employers to provide PCs to employees without home Internet access.

Despite the disappointing Oftel study results, the E-envoy's office is keen to point out the progress the Government has made in Internet connectivity.

The spokesman said: " Internet use in the UK is still higher than in any other European country. The UK is still one of the cheapest countries in the world for Internet access and the UK has the highest level of e-commerce [transactions] outside the US."

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