More than forty-seven million U.S. homes and businesses have broadband Internet access, enabling the rapid transmission and use of text and graphics. With this expanding popularity and use of the Internet, businesses that cater to Internet users have grown. Examples include Web-hosting Internet sites, Internet software, virtual assistants (where services such as accounting, meeting organization, secretarial, and even some adminstration are provided to an existing business), e-mail marketing, and Web-site design. Because some of these services can be provided using home-based computer systems, Web-based businesses have become very popular as a part-time occupation for homemakers or as a full-time, home-based occupation. Web-based businesses have been particularly embraced by women. A 2002 study by the Center for Women's Business Research estimated that privately-held, women-owned businesses accounted for almost 30% of all privately-owned business in the United States.
Maintaining an Internet site is not a complex undertaking. If the site is popular and is visited by many people, it provides an attractive forum for advertisers, which increases revenue. In 2005 online advertising revenues on Internet sites in the United States topped $10 billion, according to Plunkett Research. In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, operating Internet-based franchise businesses is gaining popularity. About three million people operated such franchises in 2001. Examples of Internet-based franchises include computer consultation and sales, cruise and other travel operations, and Internet search engine providers.
According to figures from the Department of Commerce, U.S. retail e-commerce sales in the last quarter of 2005 were $22.9 billion. This represented an increase of more than 3% from the previous quarter and indicated an area of the American economy that offered favorable opportunities to small business operators.
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