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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 01:04 GMT
Internet in half US households
Man surfing the internet, BBC
Two million new users go online each month
More than half of America's households are connected to the internet, according to a Department of Commerce report.

The study, A Nation Online, which uses census data to track internet usage, found that 143 million Americans, or 54% of the population, were using the internet as of last September, up 33% on three years ago.

US internet usage
45% of Americans use e-mail
36% search for product and service info
39% make online purchases
35% search for health information
Two million people were going online for the first time every month, the report said. Among younger people, internet usage is even higher.

Nine out of 10 school-age children have access to computers either at home or at school, according to the 96-page report.

"Today's children are tomorrow's entrepreneurs and innovators," said Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans.

"That internet usage is so prominent among them promises to bring vitality and growth to our economy."

Critics not satisfied

The figures were released as the Bush administration was criticised for intending to slash funds for programmes designed to narrow the "digital divide" - disparities in computer and internet use along racial and income lines.

US Secretary of Commerce Donald Evans, AP
Evans: Internet prominence promises economic growth
According to the Department of Commerce, the growing availability of computers at work and school has helped make the internet available "across all demographic groups and geographic regions".

But critics are not convinced.

"They are right that the numbers have gotten better in some ways, but when you have 140 million people not connected to the internet, how do you ignore that?" Larry Irving, a former commerce official in Bill Clinton's administration, told the Associated Press.

Adults use the internet mainly for research, according to Susannah Fox, the director of research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

But more internet users are going online for daily errands like banking and shopping, Ms Fox told AP.

See also:

28 Jan 02 | UK
UK web surfers increase
09 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
The internet in 2002
26 Nov 01 | Business
Hopes rise for internet stores
18 Dec 01 | UK
Women catch up on net use
03 Sep 01 | Education
Internet helping with homework
23 Jan 01 | Business
Bridging the digital divide
17 Apr 98 | Sci/Tech
The all-white Web
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