Bay Area hip to Internet access

Bay Area residents are flying ahead of the rest of the nation with its speedy Internet connections, according to a poll released today.

Approximately 76 percent of the Bay Area residents interviewed for an annual poll by the Bay Area Council, a pro-business organization, said they had broadband Internet access. Dial-up users were nearly as common as dinosaurs: Only 3 percent of respondents admitted to using the once-standard modem connection.

The business-sponsored public-policy group compared its results with those of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit that explores the Internet’s impacton daily life. The nonprofit’s report in 2007 indicated that about 47 percent of the nation had broadband Internet access.

The poll results by the Bay Area Council was “not supremely shocking” to Gary Selnow, a professor of communications at San Francisco State, that Bay Area residents are more connected — and more quickly connected — than most of the nation.

“There’s a direct link between socio-economic status and Internet connectivity, and we’re really well-connected around here because we have among the highest [socio-economic status] in the nation,” he said.

But the poll showed that the Bay Area is not immune from the nation’s great digital divide: while 93 percent of those earning at least $80,000 a year had Internet access at home, just 59 percent earning less than $40,000 were connected. Just 51 percent of people with a high-school education or less had Internet access, while 91 percent of college graduates did.

College-bound poll respondent Emily Barry, 16, can attest to the Internet’s ubiquity in her world. She spends at least one hour a day on her laptop and cannot remember a time in her life when she didn’t have Internet access.

She said she knows no one with a dial-up connection, nor does she know anyone who doesn’t have Internet access at home.

Falling into that category is another poll respondent, Millbrae resident Lynn Keefer, who also has broadband Internet access.

“[If] you have a 15-, 16-year-old in the house, a slow connection is just unacceptable,” she said.

She said she’s not sure the Bay Area’s increasing connectivity is such a good thing.

“It’s making us even further disconnected from the people around us. It’s very detached,” she said. “People don’t even use the phone anymore. Give me a good old telephone conversation any day.”

kworth@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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