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Report: 80 percent of U.S. to log on

The number of Net users in the United States will peak at 80 percent of the country's citizens, or about three-fourths of American households, an analyst report says.

The number of Internet users in the United States will peak at 80 percent of the country's citizens, or about three-fourths of American households, according to a report from researcher eMarketer.

Right now, 55 percent of the U.S. population uses the Internet, according to Ben Macklin, senior analyst at New York-based eMarketer. That's about 58 percent of U.S. households. At the end of last year, about 153 million people were online in this country, and about 10 million are expected to adopt the Net this year. The U.S. Web population will peak in the next 10 years, Macklin said.

According to a February survey of Internet holdouts released by UCLA's Center for Communication Policy, people cite not having a computer as the No. 1 reason they won't go online. About 23 percent of people surveyed simply have no interest in the Internet; other reasons given include the expense of computers, fear of or ineptitude with technology, and privacy/security issues.

Still, three-quarters of all households, or 84 million, are expected to have a PC by 2007, according to researcher The Yankee Group. About 70 million households will own a PC this year.

The eMarketer report also found that broadband audiences have reached critical mass, given that the combined work and home audiences with high-speed Internet access is about 50 million people. Macklin said that there are about 17 million broadband households in the United States.

"This is not an audience to be sneezed at," Macklin said. "The debate about whether content will drive broadband adoption, or whether content companies should wait to bring material online--the debate is over. It's time to take the Net to the next level with content that utilizes that high-speed connection."