LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's telecoms regulator reported a surge in Internet use, with almost half of the country's households now on-line, but Britons are still using decades-old technology to get connected.
In terms of narrowband -- using traditional equipment and wires -- Britain's Web connections jumped by 50 percent to a total of 11 million households over the year to November, the new figures from the Office of Telecommunications (Oftel) show.
Oftel welcomed the latest numbers, but its own research also shows that broadband access -- using high-speed cables or equipment -- is used by less than one percent of the population, one of the lowest penetration rates in the industrialized world.
Oftel has previously expressed concern about the broadband situation, but it has decided that the narrowband system gives some of the best value for money available.
"UK consumers get some of the cheapest, best deals in the world," a spokesman for Oftel told Reuters.
Oftel said British Telecommunications Plc (BT) was dominant in the wholesale market, but the telecom giant was working with other suppliers to ensure it remained competitive.
"We're not proposing any additional regulation at the moment," said the Oftel spokesman.
BT, which has been accused of resisting efforts to open up its local phone network to competition, welcomed the figures.
"We're pleased with the main result of the review," a spokesman said. "We're committed to broadening Internet access across the UK."
David Kerr, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, a self-regulating body funded by Internet service providers, said: "From our perspective, that sort of growth is certainly not surprising."
He said anecdotal evidence also pointed to a strong surge in Internet use. The number of complaints his group received concerning Internet content had jumped 50 percent over the last year, reflecting increased Internet use.
Complaints were mainly about pornographic content, particularly that featuring pictures of children, he said.