2000 census to address Net use

The chairs of the House Census subcommittee introduce legislation to add questions to the 2000 census about computers and Net access.

In a definitive sign of the times, the year 2000 U.S. Census may start tracking computer and Net usage.

Reps. Rick White (R-Washington) and Dan Miller (R-Florida) have introduced legislation to add new questions to the 2000 census about computers and online access. Miller chairs the Census subcommittee.

"Right now the census gives us information that's more relevant to planning the 1930s New Deal than preparing for the Information Age," White said in a statement. "We can't expect to find the right policies for the 21st century if we don't know how Americans really use computers and the Internet."

The bill would add two questions to the long form of the census: "Does your household have a personal computer?" and "Is your household currently connected to the Internet through a personal computer or other device?"

Despite the push to study U.S. residents' technology habits, the government will not collect census data via the Net in the year 2000 due to security concerns.

Many nonprofit organizations, universities, and corporations already study computer and Net usage, but the census would be a much broader sampling of the population.

In 1997, research firm Find/SVP and Business Week magazine reported that 40 million to 45 million people in the United States were on the Net. Analysts also predict that by 2002, 60 percent of U.S. homes will have a PC.