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There's reassuring news for broadband providers today after a survey found that four out of ten Net users want hi-speed Net access.

More still would be keen to use broadband or cable services if they were aware of what they are, according to the latest annual Internet survey from Which? Online.

The survey also claims that seven per cent of Net users currently use broadband services although El Reg reckons this figure seems a little high.

No matter. The survey shows that there is a demand for broadband services. The question is, can the industry supply services at a price people can afford?

Elsewhere, the report detailing British online habits found that the gender divide is narrowing, with women making up 45 per cent of Net users. What's more, they're just as likely to shop online as men.

It also found that more than a third of the British public (some 16 million people) use the Net - up nine per cent on last year.

However, contrary to concerns raised by last year's report, Britain is not turning into a nation of Net addicts. The average amount of time spent online has not increased in the last year, it notes suggesting that "fears that the UK could be turning into a land of 'Internet junkies' seem unfounded".

Paul Kitchen, head of Which? Online, said: "Our survey shows that most people believe that the internet is becoming part of everyday life. There are more people online, with a big increase in the number of female users.

"Around eight million people have now bought something on the internet and the range of what they're buying is now getting wider. And a broader spectrum of the UK population is online than ever before.

"As unmetered access packages spread, and as users become more experienced, the time we spend online is likely to increase. What was once extraordinary is well on the way to becoming everyday," he said.

The survey also found that people are beginning to reject digital methods of communication in favour of face-to-face meetings.

Only five per cent of Net users chose email as their preferred means of communication compared to 14 per cent in the 1999 Which? Online internet survey.

And the preference for face-to-face meetings has risen from 39 per cent in 1999 to 67 per cent in this year’s survey. ®

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