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

9 July 2014 by Steve Blum
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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.