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Thursday, July 8, 2004

Household Internet Use Survey


The number of Canadian households surfing the Internet continued to grow in 2003 according to the Household Internet Use Survey. However, growth rates remained relatively stable largely because the majority of households were already plugged in.

An estimated 7.9 million (64%) of the 12.3 million Canadian households had at least one member who used the Internet regularly in 2003, either from home, work, school, a public library or another location. This was a 5% increase from 2002, but well below the annual gains of 19% and 24% observed in 2000 and 2001.

Households with high income, members active in the labour force, those with children still living at home and people with higher levels of education have been in the forefront of Internet adoption.

Internet use was highest at home. About 6.7 million households had at least one member who regularly used the Internet from home, a gain of 7% since 2002. These households accounted for nearly 55% of the total, up from 51% in 2002.

Lower income households are making strides in logging on. Nearly 45% (1.3 million) of the households with income between $24,001 and $43,999, had someone who used the Internet from home in 2003, which is up 13% from 2002. This group of households had the highest growth in connections from home and work, as well as the combination of various locations. In contrast, the proportion of households regularly using the Internet from home remained relatively unchanged for the lowest income quartile.

Canadians continue their quest for speed

Of the nearly 6.7 million households with a regular user from home in 2003, an estimated 4.4 million (65%) had a high-speed link to the Internet through either a cable or telephone connection. This was up from 56% a year earlier.

At the same time, the proportion of households that had a low-speed connection fell from 44% in 2002 to 35% last year. Internet service providers have increased their expenditures on high-speed infrastructure in a competitive battle to provide subscribers with a wider range of online services.

Note to readers

The Household Internet Use Survey (HIUS) was conducted as a subsample of the Labour Force Survey. The HIUS collected information on the household as a whole. In total, 34,674 households were eligible for the HIUS and 23,113 (66.7%) responded. Data gathered in January 2004 covered household Internet use for the 2003 calendar year.

The respondent provided a proxy response to questions for all members of the household. Of households indicating that they regularly used the Internet, about 89% of the individuals who answered the survey for their household were one of the members that regularly used the Internet from various locations.

Regular-use households are those that responded "yes" to the question "In a typical month, does anyone in the household use the Internet?"

Of the estimated 4.4 million households with high-speed connection, the majority (61%) had a link through cable. The remaining 39% had a high-speed telephone connection, also known as a digital subscriber line, or DSL.

However, the number of DSL connections increased nearly 30% in 2003, compared with a gain of only 21% for cable. This may be an indication of price competitiveness of DSL over cable connections, or increased accessibility of households to high-speed telephone infrastructure within their neighbourhood.

Fewer households report downloading music

More and more households were using the Internet to search for medical or health-related information or to use online banking services. However, fewer reported downloading music.

Just under 38% of regular users from home reported downloading music in 2003, down from a high of 48% in 2001. This may be the result of a highly-publicized campaign by the music industry against downloading music for free.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of households had at least one member who used the Internet to search for medical or health-related information, compared with 61% in 2001. This was the third most popular use after e-mail and general browsing.

About 57% of households using the Internet at home had someone who accessed online banking services, well above the proportion of 44% in 2001, the biggest proportional gain of any use. This growth may indicate consumers are becoming more confident in the Internet's security aspects.

Four in five high-income households had Internet at home

The survey divided households into four equal groups based on income, each representing 25% of the income spectrum from highest to lowest.

In 2003, 82% of households in the highest income group had a member who used the Internet from home. This was more than double the proportion of 33% among these households five years earlier. However the strongest growth (+13%) was observed in the second income quartile, households with income between $24,001 and $43,999.

Rates of Internet use still varied substantially across family types, with children still a key factor. Single-family households with unmarried children under the age of 18 had the highest rate of Internet use from home last year, about 73%.

However, growth rates in Internet use from home were strongest among single-family households without children and one-person households. The number of households in each group increased just over 11%.

Also, the higher the level of education in the household, the more likely it is to have an Internet connection from home. Nearly 77% of households with someone with a university degree were connected from home.

In contrast, only about 12% of households in which the highest level of attainment was less than high school were connected from home. However, households with high school attainment grew fastest.

Internet use highest in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta

Internet use from home increased in most provinces in 2003. The highest rates of use were in British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta where roughly 6 out of every 10 households were connected to the Internet at home.

All the other provinces had rates of Internet use from home that were below the national average of 55%.

Some of the biggest proportional increases occurred in the Atlantic provinces. In Nova Scotia, for example, the proportion of households connected to the Internet from home increased from 46% in 2002 to nearly 53% last year. The gain in New Brunswick was from 37% to nearly 43%.

Of the 7.9 million households in census metropolitan areas, about 58% or 4.6 million were connected to the Internet from home in 2003, just above the national average. This was an increase from 55% in 2002.

Slight reduction in non-connected households

In 2003, 809,000 households indicated that a member of the household either used the Internet infrequently, or had pulled the plug entirely. The size of this group had remained constant for three years, but was slightly reduced this year.

In 2003, about 3.6 million Canadian households had never used the Internet. Most of the households in this group (87%) were either families without children or one-person households.

As well, many of these non-users earned below-average household income with 49% of non-users in the lowest group.

Available on CANSIM: tables 358-0002 to 358-0006 and 358-0017.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4432.

Additional data tables related to the information presented in this release are available online. From the Canadian statistics page, choose Culture, leisure and travel, then Internet.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jonathan Ellison (613-951-5882;, Science, Innovation and Electronic Information Division.

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Date Modified: 2004-07-08 Important Notices