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Third of UK homes still without web access

The plight of Blighty's broadband…
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

The plight of Blighty's broadband…

While broadband continues its march into ever more homes in Blighty, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also reveal that more than a third of households are still going without a web connection.

According to the ONS' 2008 Internet Access report, 65 per cent of homes - some 16.46 million households - now have internet access: an increase of 1.23 million households since 2007. And while 35 per cent of UK homes remain internet-less, the figure is down from 43 per cent two years ago.

Broadband from A to Z

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A is for ADSL
B is for BT
C is for Cable & Wireless
D is for Dial-up
E is for Education
F is for Fibre
G is for Goonhilly
H is for HSDPA
I is for In-flight
J is for Janet
K is for Kingston
L is for Landlines
M is for Murdoch
N is for Next generation
O is for Ofcom
P is for Power lines
Q is for Quad-play
R is for Remote working
S is for Satellite phones
T is for Trains
U is for Unbundling
V is for VoIP
W is for WiMax
X is for Xbox
Y is for YouTube
Z is for Zombies

Of the homes that have internet access the vast majority (86 per cent) are getting their web love via fat pipes, while dial-up continues its lingering death, with connections falling to just nine per cent - a one percentage point drop on last year.

Overall, more than half (56 per cent) of UK homes now have broadband internet access - an increase of five percentage points on 2007, according to the ONS report.

The stats also show a digital refusenik attitude is growing among Brits. Of those households that do not have internet access, a larger proportion of respondents said they do not need it or do not want it than two years ago. While other reasons for eschewing the web - such as access or equipment costs being too high - showed little or no increase.

However, The figures also suggest Brits may be becoming slightly more tech savvy across the board: just 15 per cent said they don't have web access because of a lack of skills, compared to 24 per cent two years ago.

There is also a clear link between a household's level of education and whether it's online, according to the ONS report. Individuals who have no formal qualifications are least likely to have internet connection in their home, at 56 per cent now online, while adults under 70 with a university degree or equivalent qualification are most likely (93 per cent).

The generation gap in web access persists too - adults aged over 65 are still the least likely to use the web, with 70 per cent stating they have never done so. However, there's evidence the gap is shrinking: that figure is down from 82 per cent two years ago. Meanwhile, the 16 to 24 age group unsurprisingly used the web the most, with 77 per cent using it every day or almost every day.

Although the ONS report shows the most popular place to get online was the home, the number of adults who have accessed the web via wireless laptops and 3G mobiles in the last three months has increased since last year - five percentage points and one percentage point respectively, to 23 per cent (laptops) and four per cent (mobiles).

For mobile phone data users, the most popular activity was sending photographs or other video clips. It's a marked difference from the wired world, where sending and receiving emails was the most popular online activity, followed by finding information about goods or services.

The ONS figures also reveal a growing north-south digital divide.

The South East is the most connected region, with 74 per cent of households having net access in 2008, followed by London with 73 per cent and then the East of England (70 per cent). While the North East has the fewest internet-enabled households (54 per cent), followed by the North West (56 per cent), and the East Midlands and West Midlands (both with 61 per cent).

The divide between North and South is getting bigger: back in 2006 there was a 12 percentage point gap between net connectivity in the South East and the North East. In 2008, that gap has risen to 20 percentage points.

While the general trend is for internet access to keep growing in southern homes but to stagnate in some northern regions, there are exceptions: Yorkshire & Humber web connections, for instance, have jumped 10 percentage points since last year.

The stats also show internet access in Wales has taken a leap forward - rising from 57 per cent of homes in 2007 to 67 this year to just overtake England (66 per cent) in the league of wired countries.

Northern Ireland remains the least wired area in the UK, with just over half (56 per cent) of households connected.

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