Small-business use of banking by personal computer rose 50% from March 1998 to March 1999, while Internet use among this group grew 32%, according to a study by PSI Global, an NFO Worldwide affiliate.

Since 1997, Internet use among small businesses has nearly doubled, with 63% of businesses on-line, said Maria Erickson, senior vice president of PSI's commercial services research program.

The survey also indicated that 31% of the 900 small businesses evaluated have Web sites, up from 24% in March 1998. Of those surveyed, 180 are conducting their business on the Internet.

One roadblock to wider Internet use by small companies is that providers of Web-based PC banking applications don't actively sell to small businesses, Ms. Erickson said.

"Among nonusers of PC banking, only 22% of the firms had been contacted about the service," she said, adding that free service trials and discounts proved successful in attracting first-time users.

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