The city of Seattle is releasing its quadrennial study on Internet usage and access later today, but I had a chance to look through the report (PDF) already. More than 2,500 Seattle residents were surveyed by phone, computer and in-person by the city's technology department. Here's what they found:
- The digital divide persists. White people have more access to the Internet, across the board. And kids in public schools are less likely to have computers, tablets, and Internet at home than those in private schools. They’re also less comfortable searching the Internet. Cost of service is among “the greatest barriers” to getting online for non-Internet users. Those with more than one Internet-enabled device tend to be younger, male, and have more income. Lower income residents have lower-speed broadband service.
- There’s overwhelming demand for faster, cheaper Internet. "More than half of residents surveyed said high-speed access for all Seattle households is very important," the survey finds—a 19% increase in the past three years. And 85% of Internet users interviewed by phone said they’re interested in "super high-speed internet access," defined as speedy connectivity faster than what’s currently on offer. That interest is sustained across ethnicities and incomes. Cable TV subscribership is dropping, the study notes, because more and more people are using the Internet to watch video. (Also: 58% of Seattlites have smartphones.)
- Netizens are highly engaged citizens. More than half of those polled had watched Seattle Channel, whose weekly audience is two-thirds people of color, according to the survey. And the survey found that people prefer to get civic information and notices from the city and community organizations via electronic means, chiefly e-mail. Which means the stronger and more equitable our rates of Internet access, the more robust our local democracy will be.
All of this is yet more fodder for a growing campaign (see Brett Hamil's new video) demanding municipal broadband in Seattle—after all, if Chatanooga did it, offering high speeds and low costs to its users, why can't we?
And here’s an odd tidbit: your social networks are gendered. Two-thirds of Seattlites use Facebook, while just one third use Twitter. But, women are more likely to use Facebook “often,” while dudes usually Tweet.
If you want to learn more, the city’s Department of Information Technology will present the report tonight at 6 p.m. at the Goodwill Training Center on Dearborn and Rainier Ave (and, of course, you can find it streamed live on Seattle Channel).