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Net refuseniks getting more stubborn

Half of UK not interested

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Almost half the nation's households don't have net access - and most of them aren't going to sign up.

In what will be unwelcome news for ISPs, ecommerce providers, and the government, a survey of UK households suggests internet hold-outs are getting more stubborn.

The availability of cheap broadband has eroded the refusenik camp very slightly, with 3.6 per cent of non-net households signing up over six months. However, the increase in broadband is largely at the expense of dial-up, and isn't winning net converts. The number of households with no access fell by 1.6 per cent year-on-year from the previous survey, while broadband uptake rose 7.1 per cent.

Overall, 44 per cent of UK households don't have net access and views are becoming more entrenched. 44.8 per cent of those households don't think the net is important at all (another 29.8 per cent think it's not very important). And 70 per cent of those households thought it unlikely, or not very likely, that they'd get online.

"There are signs that as the number of non-access households shrinks, those left behind are increasingly resistant. This could prove a significant barrier to achieving much higher levels of internet access," conclude the authors of the survey, conducted by broadband research outfit Point Topic.

The response mirrors similar research in the United States, which suggests interweb take-up has flat-lined.

Cost and technical skills are cited as reasons for not getting online, but a significant number simply aren't interested.

Alas, the prospect of "free broadband" isn't likely to tip the scales, either. Point Topic notes that the refuseniks are more likely to shun other technologies - 49 per cent use terrestial rather than digital TV, for example - so are less promising targets for "triple play" or other bundles.

In other areas, the survey dampens the hype between super, soaraway broadband Britain.

Two thirds of households surveyed don't have a PC, and alternatives aren't considered very attractive. Only 14 per cent of non-access households rated a TV or mobile phone as a good alternative to PC-based net access. Email-capable phones, games consoles, and PDAs rated even lower.

Cable and satellite providers are likely to take some comfort from the survey. 11 per cent of those surveyed suggest they are likely to change TV services, with 40 per cent opting for either Sky (or Sky+) or NTL:Telewest. BT is best placed to tap the refuseniks, says Point Topic, but only at the expense of its profit margins.

Refuseniks are most likely to be in the 45 to 54 age group, which, unfortunately for ISPs, is also the largest demographic slice by age, making up 27 per cent of UK households.

The survey interviewed over 2,000 respondents face to face in January and February this year. ®

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