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Plethora of freebie services have failed to bring democracy to the Net

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Rich people still dominate Net usage in the UK, prompting fears that the divide between the Internet haves and have-nots is widening. That's just one of the conclusions from a new batch of research due to be published tomorrow at Internet World 99 in London. According to Fletcher Research, the latest recruits to the Net are highly educated and well paid. The result is that there is a growing clique of middle class Net users in the UK -- ending speculation that Net may be finally becoming a mass-market media. It seems the efforts of tabloid newspapers, including The Sun, The Mirror and The Sport -- which have all launched subscription-free ISP services recently to appeal to their readerships -- have yet to make a substantial impact on the market. "We might have expected to see some shake up of the traditional, almost cliched perception of the UK Internet user as male, university educated, aged under 45 and affluent," said William Reeve at Fletcher. "While almost a quarter of all UK Internet users are now over 45 and almost four out of every ten Internet users are female, the entire UK Net population remains resolutely affluent," he said. "Over 80 per cent of users are from the ABC1 socio-economic bracket. The Internet is still not a mass-market phenomenon," he said. Fletcher will also announce that there are now more than ten million Net users in the UK -- an increase of three million in just five months. Part of this increase is down to the explosion in subscription-free ISPs such as Dixons Freeserve, Tesco and Currant Bun which have helped boost Net numbers in the UK to new record levels. ®

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