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Twenty five per cent of population afflicted

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A quarter of adult Brits will not touch the Internet with a bargepole, a survey has revealed.

Nearly 15 million have no plans to use the Web, with many people citing cost and sheer uselessness as the reasons behind their choice, according to the third Which? Online survey.

Whe are far from being a nation of Net luddites - 33 per cent of users are online for more than five hours per week and 64 per cent admit the Net has become part of everyday life, but it seems many are reluctant to jump on.

A wthird of the 2000 people questioned by Which? thought the Web was too expensive to use and offered them nothing relevant to their lives, while 25 per cent of Internet virgins said they didn't know what the Web was for.

The survey, conducted with the help of pollsters Mori, concluded that the UK's online population was around 13 million. Which? also said that poorer households were starting to go online to save their kids falling behind at school.

This clashed somewhat with a government survey released yesterday, which suggested a digital divide between Britain's more cash-strapped regions and the more affluent. According to the report from the Office of National Statistics, the number of households with Internet access has doubled in 12 months to 6.5 million. But just 3-6 per cent of poorer households are online - those with £270 a week - compared to 48 per cent of the better off - those earning more than £900 per week.

The survey, based on 7,000 UK households, also revealed huge regional differences. Affluent London and the south-east has an average 25 per cent of homes online, compared to 14 per cent in Scotland and the north-east, and just 11 per cent in Northern Ireland.

Which seemed to think that Internet access via TVs and mobile phones may get more people over their cyberphobia. ®

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