Survey of Illinois Households Examines Broadband Usage, Benefits, Barriers
In a multi-faceted survey released earlier this month by Broadband Illinois, Illinois households rated fiber-optic internet connections highest in terms of speed, reliability and value. However, households in rural and isolated areas of Illinois are almost four times as likely to have a dial-up connection.
Conducted in 2012 and released this month, the “Broadband Illinois eSolutions Benchmarking Report” received responses from 2,129 Illinois households. Key findings of the household report focus on internet usage, benefits and barriers. Selected results are broken down by characteristics such as household income, connectivity type and rural versus non-rural regions. Other sections of the report focus on Illinois businesses and community anchor institutions.
Fiber-optic connections were rated most favorably among households surveyed, in terms of speed, reliability and value. Respondents were less satisfied with mobile wireless and satellite technologies, citing poor consistency and slower speeds.
The diverse geography of Illinois also came in to play in terms of quality and availability of high-speed connections. According to the survey, households in communities with a population less than 50,000 are three times as likely to be on dial-up compared to those in communities larger than 50,000. Households in isolated or small towns are almost four times as likely to be on dial-up.
Respondents cited lower-quality connectivity as a major negative impact on a household’s internet productivity, including online education, telework, home businesses and accessing the workplace.
“The survey results show that the Internet plays an important role in helping people carry out everyday tasks more effectively,” said John Horrigan, Ph.D., Research Director at Broadband Illinois and Vice President and Director at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “There are challenges to drawing people to deeper engagement with the Internet — privacy and security, and digital skills — all stakeholders should work to address those issues.”
“This research is going to be critical for regional planning and economic development efforts throughout Illinois,” said Drew Clark, Executive Director of Broadband Illinois. “Next week, we’re hosting a statewide webinar for our stakeholders and regional eTeams where we will really dig in to this data.”
The survey was conducted by Strategic Networks Group (SNG), an globally-recognized group of broadband economists who develop strategies for most effectively leveraging broadband investments. SNG has also provided important broadband research to state broadband entities in North Carolina and Kentucky, among others.
The Illinois Institute of Rural Affairs engaged in outreach efforts for this survey.
Home-based Businesses and Telework
As part of the survey, households were asked about their current uses of the internet as well as their planned use over the next year. Results are divided in to five major categories: Communication, Research and Information, Online transactions, Entertainment and recreation and Personal productivity.
Accessing the work place is the most frequent productive use, with more than 56 percent of broadband households using the internet for this purpose. Education and training, home-based businesses, and telework were also cited as significant productivity uses.
In smaller and more isolated towns, respondents utilize the internet more for a home business and education than respondents in metropolitan areas. However, telework and accessing the workplace virtually were more common among city-dwellers.
The report also highlights the more than 23 percent of Illinois broadband households that are operating a home-based business. Of these, 77 percent of home-based business owners stated that broadband is essential for their business to function. Only 57 percent have a website (compared to the almost 75 percent of other small businesses with up to 4 employees). However, home-based businesses were more likely to sell online compared to other small businesses.
Telework was also a key component of the survey, with 25.6 percent of Illinois households stating that telework is currently practiced. Of these, 60 percent of teleworkers said they are employed by organizations more than 30 miles from their residence. Life-work balance was cited as the most important factor for teleworking, followed by commute time. Thirty-two percent of respondents strongly agreed they would not be able to work in their present position without the ability to telework and 30 percent said they would have to relocate if they could not telework.
The research also spotlights the barriers to household internet usage. A majority of households surveyed (70 percent) say they want to increase their level of internet use. Barriers to doing so include inadequate internet connections and concerns over privacy and security. Lack of skills or knowledge impacted a far smaller group.
Through the Digital Economy Analysis platform (DEAP), users can filter household survey data on demographics such as age, household income, employment status, as well as a mix of community sizes. A statewide webinar from 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. on Monday, May 13 is open to Broadband Illinois eTeams and stakeholders and will provide more information on the DEAP platform. Register at www.broadbandillinois.org/calendar/260.
For more information on the survey, contact eTeam leader Clayton Black at 217-886-4029.
The full reports are available for download below.
About Strategic Networks Group: SNG is a group of broadband economists who develop strategies for most effectively leveraging broadband investments. SNG looks to help make the most broad-reaching and transformational impacts that broadband can bring enable businesses, communities and regions by delivering the data and analysis decision makers need to maximize broadband’s potential. SNG’s goals: economic development, social advancement, increased productivity and competiveness. Learn more about SNG online at www.sngroup.com and discover how broadband market analytics can accelerate regional economic development.
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