Survey research on Internet use in Britain has highlighted two dramatic and interrelated shifts in how users are accessing the Internet. From our early study of Internet use in 2003, the primary pattern of Internet access was based on the use of a personal computer in one’s household, and at times complemented by similar access at the workplace, linked to the Internet through a modem or broadband connection. The major change in access since 2003 was around the speed of connections, with the major trend being the uptake of broadband Internet until 2009, by when nearly all Internet users used a broadband connection. This dominant pattern of Internet access characterizes the ‘first generation user’ in Britain.
In contrast to this first generation of Internet users, there is a new pattern of Internet access developing through the use of a growing variety of devices than enable increasing mobility. Laptops, smart phones, tablet computers, and readers are providing a multitude of entry points that most often complement but occasionally replace the centrality of the household personal computer. We call those who link to the Internet in this increasingly mobile style as the ‘next generation users’ (NGUs). Who are the next generation users, the more tethered users, and non-users? Additionally, socioeconomic divides and the choices of many individuals not to use the Internet are socially distributed in ways that reignite issues over digital divides in society.
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