Two recent reports have challenged government agency figures which claim that internet use in the UK has dipped in the last three months.
Telecoms regulator Oftel reported last week that overall internet usage has fallen in the UK for the first time, but that growth was increasing among lower income groups.
But Which? Online, the internet service provider run by the Consumer Association, said its annual survey of UK internet use suggested that the number of surfers is still rising.
It puts the number of UK surfers at 16 million, some 36 per cent of the population. This represents an increase of 33 per cent on a year ago, the report said.
Market researcher Net Value puts the total figures of UK home internet users at 15 million to September 2001, a rise of 53 per cent on September 2000.
It added that the average user now spends 7.3 hours online per month over 9.4 days. Net Value also said that surfers are visiting fewer domains than before (44 compared with 58) but now spend longer on each website, on average 10 minutes per domain rather than six minutes 16 seconds.
Figures from Which? said that more than three in five surfers went online for less than five hours a week, and visited an average of 12 websites a week.
"The information aspect of the internet is paramount to users," Which? said. "Surfers like the variety and volume of information available more than anything else and most frequently use the internet for education and research purposes."
"Email, on the other hand, appears to be in slight decline. It is no longer the top use of the internet as it was last year," the report said.
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