"Always on" broadband Internet hook-ups are transforming American
life, empowering grass roots politics, moulding new work and shopping
habits and bringing far flung families closer.
A major new survey published Wednesday also found that the most
explosive growth in online time was among low income web surfers, who
had previously been excluded from the Internet revolution.
"The Internet has clearly matured across all segments of American
society," said Jeffrey Cole, director of the University of South
California Annenberg School Center for the Digital future, which
conducted the survey.
The project, the fifth annual release of the study, yielded
"extraordinary findings about how the Internet continues to change
America," Cole said.
In 2005, more Americans than ever before were on the Internet -- 78
percent of the population -- and their use of the medium rose to an
average of 13.3 hours a week.
For the first time, a broadband connection is the most popular way for
US users to access the web -- 48 percent compared to the 45 percent of
users still drumming their fingers as their computer labors through a
dial up process.
"It is really the always on (factor) which changes our relationship
with the Internet long term," Cole said, at an advance briefing on the
report for congressional staffers last week.
Whereas dial-up consumers typically get online two to three times per
day for around 30 minutes, those with broadband links frequently log
on to check news, shop or to chase down information, Cole said.
E-mail remains the most popular online activity, followed by general
web surfing, reading news, shopping and entertainment -- and only 27
percent of users said they would give up the Internet over their cell
phone or television.
Internet use is also becoming more available across the economic
digital divide. In 2005, Internet use among those with incomes of less
than 30,000 dollars rose to 61 percent, after hovering around 50
percent for four years.
"The fastest growing use of the Internet is among those with the
lowest income," said Cole.
The survey also found online campaigning is transforming US politics
and empowering individual voters dwarfed by the might of the print and
The online revolution could even allow a third-party candidate to
break the two-party Republican/Democrat monopoly of US politics, said
"The Internet will forever change the course and nature of American
"The Internet is no longer a marginal force in American politics -- it
is quickly becoming the central force in empowering voters," Cole
Cole said at the congressional briefing that 40 percent of Internet
users now believe going online can give people more political power.
A majority of Internet users told the survey that the Internet was
having no influence on the time they were spending with family and
friends. But 40 percent said it had increased contact with close
relatives and friends.
The web is also playing an important role in keeping members of the US
military, many fighting far flung conflicts, in touch with their
families back home, the survey said.
Copyright 2005 Agence France Presse.
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