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ISP customers pass 17 million

The number of people using ISPs has more than tripled to 17.6 million since last year, eclipsing those using the big online services.

The number of people using Internet service providers has more than tripled to 17.6 million since last year, eclipsing the total who use online services such as America Online, according to a study released today by Computer Intelligence.

The results of the study represent a significant market shift away from content-heavy services and toward no-frills dial-up access, most often from much smaller companies.

"A year ago, more than two times as many Internet users accessed the Internet via an online service as went direct through an ISP," the report said. "Now, more Internet users get there by an ISP than through an online service."

That's not to say that the number of online users hasn't grown--in fact, it's up more than 40 percent, to 16 million users. But that is still less than the 17.6 million customers who use ISPs.

Competition among ISPs is prompting offers like the one announced today by Network Intensive: a money-back guarantee. The business ISP says the guarantee demonstrates its commitment to service and "believes it is time to move the quality of service matrix forward" for all ISPs.

ISPs are fighting to differentiate themselves, not only with offers like these but with premium pricing plans like the one being considered by EarthLink Network. (See related story)

Other findings of the company's newly released 1997 Consumer Technology Index:

  • Home PCs continue to make up the largest portion of Net users, but the number of workplace PCs used for the Internet has grown to nearly 11 million early this year, up from just 3.6 million in early 1996.

  • The most common Internet activities are still electronic mail and Web browsing. More than 80 percent of Netizens use email, and about 80 percent surf the Web.

  • Netscape Navigator remains the dominant browser in the United States, with a 71 percent market share. Microsoft's Internet Explorer ranks second.

    The study is based on a survey of 50,000 individuals who filled out a 12-page questionnaire.