Figures released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show a 5.6 percent increase in internet takeup from October 02 to October 03, meaning over 50 percent of UK households are now hooked up to the web.

While Ofcom announced its plans to launch a year-long review of the telecommunications sector — which includes broadband and narrowband internet access —
yesterday, trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt used the opportunity to announce the government's commitment to providing internet to everyone who wants it by 2005.

"While it is great news that so many people have access to the internet, we must continue to bridge the digital divide," said Hewitt.

Hewitt also announced the appointment of a Digital Inclusion Panel, designed to advise government on how to bring the benefits of online access to the whole of the UK by 2008.

Today's ONS figures show that internet takeup is growing, with permanent (broadband) connections now accounting for 20 percent of the market. The year-on-year decrease for dialup narrowband connections was 6.8 percent, due mainly to the migration to broadband connections.

The growing availability of broadband services coupled with lower pricing and a host of special offers from service providers throughout the festive season is expected to increase takeup figures further. However, the government's promise of universal availability by 2005 may be more difficult to reach.

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