Study: Austin more wired than most, but some sectors lag

A new report appears to back up assertions that Austin is indeed a “wired” city.

University of Texas researchers found that 92 percent of Austin homes have an Internet connection – well above the national average of 70 percent.

Still, there are some areas for concern, according to the study. Researchers discovered that African Americans, for example, are less likely to have home Internet connections than Austinites of other races.

The report was commissioned by the city of Austin’s Office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs, which hopes to use the findings to shape efforts to help get more people access to the Web.

“They’re very keen to learn from this, to help their own digital inclusion efforts,” said Sharon Strover, the report’s lead author and a professor in UT’s Department of Radio-Television-Film. “Access is still an issue in some areas. They want to make sure people who want to go online can get online.”

For people who don’t have access to the Internet at home, other options include work or school, as well as places such as public libraries, Strover said.

“This study will help guide city of Austin decisions and help those involved in digital inclusion better target their efforts and design better services,” said John Speirs, who oversees digital inclusion efforts in the Office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs.

The African American population is generally “less connected,” researchers found, with Internet access in 80 percent of homes. That compares to 91.9 percent for Hispanics and 94.5 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

African Americans were also less likely to use the Internet, whether at home or elsewhere, coming in at 81 percent versus 88 percent for Hispanics and 96 percent for non-Hispanic whites.

In addition to race, the study, which was conducted last summer, also examined Internet access and usage based on gender, education, age and where respondents live.

It found that there are more than 50,000 Austinites who don’t use the Internet. Those “non-users” were most likely to live in South Austin.

Nearly two-thirds of non-users – 61 percent – listed cost as one of the reasons they don’t use the Internet. Other factors commonly cited were safety and privacy concerns and that they were “simply not interested in using the Internet.”

“Non-users tend to be older, less well-educated and more female,” researchers found.

“We hope this data will be able to help the city better target their efforts,” Strover said.

Even before the UT survey results were tabulated, a number of efforts were already under way to bridge the city’s digital divide. One of the highest-profile initiatives has been from Google, which in the process of deploying its super-fast 1-gigabit Internet service in parts of South and Southeast Austin. Google plans to make Fiber available in other parts of the city in the coming years.

Google has partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin, for instance, to offer basic Internet service at no cost to residents, said Parisa Fatehi-Weeks, Google’s community impact manager for Austin.

Through another program, Community Connections, Google will offer 1-gigabit Internet for free at about 100 sites throughout Austin, such as public libraries and high schools.

“Google thinks the Internet is a better place when everyone in the community is a part of it,” Fatehi-Weeks said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Business

Austin-area home starts up 13.1% in 1st quarter
Austin-area home starts up 13.1% in 1st quarter

Home construction continued to boom in Central Texas in the first quarter, with builders starting work on 13 percent more houses than in the same quarter last year, the latest figures show. “Austin continues to ride the wave of buyer demand into the spring selling season,” said Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director for Metrostudy...
Once disruptors, ride-hail firms now ‘major player’ at Austin airport
Once disruptors, ride-hail firms now ‘major player’ at Austin airport

Roughly four years after ride-hailing firms began shaking up the ground transportation business at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the at-times contentious relationship between the airport and ride-hailing entities has reached a more settled point — one representative of the importance ride-hailing companies now have for ABIA. The four...
Texas business coalition challenges Austin’s sick-leave plan

The city’s new ordinance mandating that most private businesses in Austin provide paid sick leave to employees — heralded by supporters as the most progressive labor policy in Texas when it won approval two months ago — is facing a legal challenge to prevent it from ever taking effect. Proponents of Austin’s sick-leave rules...
More South Congress changes: Developer remaking complex
More South Congress changes: Developer remaking complex

More changes are taking place on Austin’s trendy South Congress Avenue, with the latest redevelopment underway at the site that houses the CityView at Soco apartments. The developer, Turnbridge Equities, is demolishing a four-story building at the front of the complex, which is at 1007 S. Congress Ave. The old building — which included...
NRA lobbyist claims Yeti is ‘engaging in damage control’
NRA lobbyist claims Yeti is ‘engaging in damage control’

A key National Rifle Association lobbyist isn’t satisfied with Yeti’s response to claims the Austin-based company has cut ties with the organization. The NRA sent members an email Friday alleging Yeti had “suddenly, without prior notice” indicated it no longer wished to do business with the NRA Foundation. “That certainly...
More Stories