Tag Archives: field poll

California’s broadband growth flat for six years

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There are two ways to look at the latest Field Poll/California Emerging Technology Fund survey of household Internet penetration: the number of homes with someone online, at one level or another, jumped five points from 79% in 2015 to 84% in 2016, or broadband uptake has stalled in the Golden State for six years.

The case for the former is the topline gloss of the survey which has total broadband penetration at 84%, if you define broadband penetration as at least one person in the house with a smart phone in his or her pocket. That’s the number that went up 5% in one year.

If you look at fixed broadband service, though, it’s a different and depressing picture. In 2010, 70% of homes in California had a broadband subscription – via wireline or fixed wireless service – that was available, in theory, to everyone in the house, all the time. Six years later, in 2016, that number was… wait for it… 70%.

That means that 16% of Californian homes have no Internet access at all, and 14% are second class cyber-citizens, as the Field Poll press release makes clear

The difference between those who have broadband Internet access through a home computing device and those who don’t is fostering what some are calling an “under-connected” class of Internet users. And, these users largely come from the same population subgroups as those with historically lower levels of residential Internet access. For example, not only are low-income Californians less likely than high-income earners to have Internet access at home (68% vs. 97%), the disparities grow wider when comparing how residents with access are connecting to the Internet. Just 43% of Californians with incomes of less than $22,000 can access the Internet at home through a computing device, compared to 94% among those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Similarly, a smaller proportion of the state’s Spanish-speaking Latinos (69%) than others have access to broadband Internet at home, and just 39% connect to the Internet through a home computing device.

Mobile broadband is as much an essential 21st century service as true home or business Internet access. But it’s not the same thing – people need both, to reap the full benefits of the digital age.

There’s a lot of work yet to do.

Home broadband service grows in California but not overall Internet access

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High speed home broadband service in California continues to grow, albeit slowly, but Internet use has flatlined among Californian adults. That’s one of the findings of a survey conducted by the Field Poll on behalf of the California Emerging Technology Fund.

According to the report, 87% of Californian homes were connected to the Internet in 2014 and 79% have high speed access – sorta. The survey classified smart phone access as “broadband”. And it is, in comparison to the 6% of homes that still rely on dial-up modem service. The remaining 2% didn’t say how they’re getting their Internet connection – apparently there was no box to check labeled via my neighbor’s WiFi. The split is 71% with computer access (which could be via wireline or a wide variety of wireless technologies) and 8% just relying on smartphones.

Although the take rate for broadband service is climbing – it had been hovering around 75% the past couple of years – total home use has not. That figure has been fluctuating around 86% or 87% for the past four years. Broadband growth, it seems, is coming from converted dial up customers and the I don’t know crowd.

The top line results that were released didn’t drill down on why, but it’s fair guess that the answer is something like last year’s when 36% of those who aren’t connected at home said it’s because they’re not interested in the Internet or they don’t need it, 22% said either access or computers are too expensive and 21% said they don’t know how to use it. Out-of-home broadband access is important – 6% of Californians rely on it completely. The most common source of access for those who don’t have it at home is the public library.

Click to download the 2015 press release
Click to download the 2015 slide presentation
Click to download the 2014 slide presentation

Californians with better Internet infrastructure have a better life, and vice versa

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Bling is no substitute for bandwidth.

Statewide quantitative research done by the Field Poll on behalf of the California Emerging Technology Fund shows that most Californian adults – 86% – use the Internet “at least occasionally”. Most – 75% – have some kind of Internet access at home. But the way they access the Internet at home is also a good predictor of mainstream status.

Nearly all adults between 18 and 29, or with a college degree, or making $60,000 a year or better have Internet access at home. The numbers released by the Field Poll, however, suggest that those are the people who, overwhelmingly, have a fixed connection at home – DSL, cable, fixed wireless, satellite or similar. The 75% breaks down into two groups: 67% with fixed, in-home service and 8% relying on smartphones with mobile connections. And there’s a big difference between those two groups, according to the research…

The 8% of California adults using a smart phone as their sole means of connecting to the Internet at home include many of the same subgroups reporting lower than average access to broadband Internet connectivity at home. These include Spanish-speaking Latinos, non-citizens, adults who have not graduated from high school, and residents whose annual household income is less than $40,000.

Mobile Internet service providers can’t be blamed for poverty or other demographic factors, of course. And the fact that poorer Californians are more likely to rely only on mobile service shows that Swiss Army Knife product and service bundles are a rational compromise for people on a restricted budget. But the bottom line conclusion is equally clear: Californians who have fixed Internet access are enjoying the bounty of the Golden State, and those who don’t, aren’t.

Mobile broadband is good, but not sufficient. Infrastructure matters.

No progress made in closing California’s digital divide

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If you’re a Californian who’s college age or even just a twenty-something, or you’re any age at all and you have a college degree, or if you’re making $60,000 or more a year, then it’s almost certain you’re on the Internet. If that’s not you, then not so much.

That’s the conclusion of a Field Poll conducted for the California Emerging Technology Fund that put some harder numbers on the digital divide here. The research, released today, showed that that core demographic groups – young, educated and/or making a reasonable living – are over the 95% mark in terms of Internet adoption. Given that much of the 4% or 5% remainder can be characterised as being in some sort of transition – between jobs, say – there’s not much practical room for improvement there.

But if you’re not among the blessed, it’s a different story. If you’re a Californian who didn’t graduate from high school, then it’s a 50/50 proposition whether you’re on the Internet. Do you speak Spanish and not English? Only a 60% chance. A senior citizen? 1 in 3 chance you’re on the wrong side of digital divide. It’s even worse if you’re not a citizen, or a naturalised citizen, or disabled, or making minimum wage – less than $20,000 a year.

Overall, 86% of Californians over the age of 18 are online, at least to the extent that they “use the Internet at least occasionally”, and 75% have access at home. That’s good news, but only to an extent – the home access number hasn’t changed over the last year, the millions of dollars being spent trying to boost it notwithstanding.

The divide has a technological fault line as well: most Californians who have Internet service at home get it via some kind of fixed connection. But a sizeable minority – 8% – rely just on mobile service. And the demographics of the mobile-only homes look a lot like those with no service at at all. More on that tomorrow.