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86% of UK adults (44.7 million) used the internet over Q1 205, an increase of 1% over numbers in Q1 2014iStock

The UK Office for National Statistics has released its latest report into the state of broadband access across the country, covering the period of January to March (Q1 2015).

The report finds that 86% of UK adults (44.7 million) used the internet over the period, an increase of 1% over numbers in Q1 2014.

Dan Howdle, telecoms expert and editor-in-chief of broadband, TV and mobile comparison site Cable.co.uk, commented on the key findings in the ONS report: "1% doesn't sound like a lot in the grand scheme, but with a population of 64.1 million people in the UK, it represents 641,000 adults using the internet that weren't before."

Interestingly, ONS reported that 11% (5.9 million) of UK adults had never used the internet, a 1% decline over the previous corresponding period.

"Nearly 6 million UK residents still remains a staggering number who have never used the internet, and although the number of over-75s who have never used it has decreased by 15% over the last four years, much of that number is made up of the mature end of the UK population," said Howdle.

ONS says the south east of the UK had the highest proportion of recent internet users (90%) and Northern Ireland was the area with the lowest proportion (80%).

In Q1 2015, the proportion of adults who were recent internet users was lower for those that were disabled (68%), compared with those that were not disabled (92%), the ONS reports.

It seems that disabled and elderly people in the UK are still at a slight disadvantage when it comes to opportunity to access the internet.

"Accessibility is the issue here. While things are improving in regard to making websites more accessible, for people who are deaf, blind or have disabilities that present physical barriers, the internet as a whole is still a very long way from where it needs to be," said Howdle.

"From the point of view of webmasters, this is often not because they wish to ignore blind or deaf people, or those with disabilities, from enjoying their content to the same level as anyone else, but because the steps that need to be taken to make it accessible to everyone are resource-intensive."

According to the ONS, the proportion of adults between 16 to 24 years old who were recent internet users was lower for those that were disabled (95% recent users) compared with those that were not disabled (99% recent users).

The proportion of adults aged 75 years and over who were recent internet users was also lower for those that were disabled (27% recent users) compared with those that were not disabled (40% recent users), the ONS said.

Commenting on the broader picture, Howdle said: "The pressures at play here are those of our increasing dependence on the convenience of a digital lifestyle – banking, surfing, social, working – coupled with the widening availability of broadband infrastructure and the increasing affordability of the devices that utilise it."

"Despite societal pressures and increasing availability and affordability, it goes to show that it remains a hard task to convince people who have lived long lives without the need for tablets, smartphones or laptops, that they need them in their retirement years."