August 1, 2016 – According to a new statewide Field Poll, 84% of California households now have access to highspeed Internet at home. This proportion is up nine points from 2014.
Most of the increase in broadband Internet connectivity is due to the growing popularity of mobile, smart phone devices. There has been a near doubling – from 8% to 14% – in the proportion of Californians who access the Internet at home only through a smart phone. While this is enabling more to get online, these users have more limited functionality when connecting to the Internet than those connecting from a desktop, laptop or tablet computer. In addition, some smart phone users face limitations in data access based on their monthly cell phone plans.
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. Cost is by far the single biggest factor preventing those without Internet connectivity at home from going online. Of those without Internet access at home, three in four (74%) cite its expense or not have a computer or smart phone as a reason for not being connected, and 39% volunteer this as their main reason. No other factor is cited by more than 18% as a primary reason for not having Internet access at home.
The survey finds that 69% of Californians think it is extremely or very important to ensure that all California households have access to high speed Internet. Another 21% feel this is somewhat important. Just 6% believe this public policy objective is not important.
Similarly, greater than seven in ten Californians (71%) feel it is extremely or very important to get all Californians online, with another 18% saying this is somewhat important. Only 8% see this goal as not important.
Californians are also using the Internet at home in an ever increasing variety of ways. Greater than eight in ten users report going online to stay connected with family and friends (90%), to keep up with the news (84%), to assist children with their homework (84%)*, and to watch or download TV shows, movies, games or listen to music (80%).
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Majorities also say they are going online at home to manage their money or bank online (70%), get health or medical information or communicate with a health care provider (66%), search for job opportunities (60%), learn about or access government services (57%), and gain new career skills or take classes online (53%).
These are the topline findings from the annual Broadband Adoption Survey in California, conducted by telephone among 1,635 California adults in six languages on behalf of the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), a non-profit foundation focused on promoting broadband deployment and adoption, by The Field Poll.
According to Sunne Wright McPeak, CETF’s President and CEO, “The task ahead is not just getting all Californians connected to the Internet. There are now increasing concerns about how Californians are connected at home. Parents needing to assist their children with school work, job seekers needing to complete job applications online, workers wanting to gain new career skills by taking online classes, and seniors or the disabled needing to communicate with their doctors or to access government services – all are at a big disadvantage if their only means of connecting to the Internet at home is through a mobile phone.”
The survey also finds that seniors age 65 or older continue to lag behind other population segments in having access to broadband Internet at home. Just 56% of Californians age 65 or older report this, while 44% do not. Further analysis of the seniors without Internet access shows them to have the following demographic profile: low income, women, renters, did not attend college, Latino or Asian American, and first generation immigrants. Other population subgroups with lower levels of Internet access at home are the disabled, Californians living in population areas of the state with fewer than 10,000 residents, and those who have not graduated from high school.