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RealTime IT News

Spanish Net Use Meets Exponential Growth

The number of Spanish netizens has jumped to more than 4 million and, for the first time ever, exponential growth will quickly make it mass medium in Spain, the Association of Spanish Internet Users (AUI) recently announced.

According to the Encuesta General de Medios, the past four months have brought 700,000 Spaniards (1.9 percent of the population) online for the first time; 12.4 percent of the population now uses the Internet. With the online user growth rate more than doubling the previous .8 percent, the number of Spanish netizens is expected to rise to seven million by October and 9.5 million by March of next year.

"(These figures) mean the point of inflection in the number of wired citizens in our country, which was until now experiencing sustained, linear growth. This has now transformed into an exponential growth period," said Miguel Angel Pirez, president of the Spanish Internet Users Association.

"In other countries, particularly the United States, this shift in trend lead to the widespread use of the Internet among citizens and the use of the Net as a medium for news, education, leisure and business."

Despite the fact that more than one-tenth of this 40 million-strong nation is online, many of these are casual users. The association pointed out the need to provide alternatives to the standard PC-to-Internet formula to narrow the gap between habitual and casual users.

The growth of Internet-capable mobile phones and simplified Net-compatible desktop devices are expected to help narrow the gap in part.

The high cost of local phone calls continues to be a barrier to habitual Net use. In Spain, as elsewhere in Europe, net user associations continue to push for something akin to a U.S.-style flat rate, even if it is only for Internet-related calls. The country's telephone operators currently offer special coupons whereby customers can buy online "coupons" for a set number of online hours. These are generally sold at separate rates for day and night use.

A nascent alternative infrastructure built on cable and ADSL technology is expected to bring something closer to flat-rate access to businesses, and to home consumers who can afford it.