Hawaii residents spend lots of time online
By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Greg Wiles
Wilhelmina Rise resident Robert Kay swears by the Internet when it comes to dialing up friends in other countries, having last week used a free Web technology to chat with a pal in Belgium for half an hour and spending time on the phone with an acquaintance in Switzerland.
Over the course of the week he might use the Internet-based telephone service Skype to dial people in Portugal or Singapore.
"I find that an incredibly useful application," says Kay, who spends hours online daily in his work as a public relations consultant and for after-hours connections with friends.
It turns out that Kay's daily logging of hours online isn't that unusual for Honolulu. A survey by Scarborough Research this year found O'ahu residents spent more hours online than the national average. About two-thirds of O'ahu's adult Web users averaged 5 hours or more on the Internet each week. That compares to the national average of 56 percent.
There are many explanations why Honolulu's Web usage tops national averages, with many people noting that Honolulu's Internet infrastructure is better than many areas on the Mainland. That includes O'ahu being situated on top of Internet infrastructure linking Australia and Asia to the U.S. West Coast, providing the state with lots of bandwidth. Perhaps more significantly, though, is the fact that Honolulu ranks highly when it comes to number of high-speed Internet users as a percentage of overall users.
"Broadband leads to higher use of the Internet," said Jon Cheng, a partner in PCF Virtual, an advertising agency that relies heavily on the Web for work with clients and consultants elsewhere.
Broadband, or high-speed Internet service, generally leads to heavier Web usage compared to the slow dial-up connections. Whereas using dial-up Internet service can be tedious and frustrating, broadband connections offer instant access to the Web with speedier downloads of graphics, music and video. A dial-up user might avoid or abandon attempts to access graphic-laden Web pages and big downloads; broadband users might spend more time online because of their faster access to those materials.
As Alan Pollock, vice president of marketing for Oceanic Time Warner Cable says, high speed begets more usage.
Honolulu was one of the first markets where Time Warner rolled out its Road Runner service, and today O'ahu has the second-highest Internet penetration of any Time Warner market. Oceanic is the largest Internet service provider in the state, with about 220,000 customers.
"We're considered a very mature market for high speed service," said Pollock.
At Hawaiian Telcom, the No. 2 ISP in the state, the thinking is similar. Michael Fry, senior Internet product manager, said figures he's seen show Honolulu has some of the highest broadband penetration in the nation. Fry said other factors that may lead to higher Web use here include the number of people that work from home and use the Internet to connect with offices and the competitive nature of the market with Hawaiian Telcom, Oceanic, Clearwire, Pacific Lightnet and Time Warner Telecom and others vying to provide Web service to homes and businesses.
"We believe the competition is good for the consumer and is driving adoption here," said Fry. Hawaiian Telcom currently is trying to lure new customers to its service with an offer of $20 a month for one year.
Hawai'i's isolation and the number of people with family elsewhere may also be driving Web usage, said James Kerr, president of Honolulu-based SuperGeeks, a computer repair, networking and security firm. People here like being connected to the latest trends on the Mainland, while others want to stay in touch with family and friends on the Mainland and in Asia and may spend hours online with e-mail, updating personal Web pages, and uploading photos and videos.
"Hawai'i is essentially a life raft in the middle of the ocean," said Kerr. "With that comes the need to communicate regularly."
"I think all these things make this a tidy, convenient market for high-speed Internet access."
Pollock cites some of the same reasons and says there may be another factor that comes with being so isolated. Lower-income families might not have the money to travel off-island but have enough to spend on speedy Web connections.
"High-speed Internet skews slightly higher to higher-income people, but it doesn't skew as highly as you might think," said Pollock.
COMPARING OUR HABITS
So where do people spend their time while online?
ComScore Media Metrix, a leading Web measurement company, notes Honolulu's Internet habits pretty much mirror those nationally, with Web portals such as Yahoo.com and MSN.com being the most popular. Portals attracted 92 percent of O'ahu's Web users in October. Search sites such as Google.com formed the second most visited category (86 percent), followed by retail sites (77 percent).
Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook were No. 4 in popularity in Honolulu, which differed from the fourth spot nationally, which was e-mail. Cliff Miyake, vice president and general manager for Time Warner Telecom in Hawai'i, said the local schools have done a good job of making the Internet available to kids and that's helped increase usage. That includes visiting sites such as MySpace where people can create personalized pages and their own content.
"They are creating content, not just viewing content," said Miyake. "I think it's great."
Said Cheng of PCF Virtual, "There's a lot more younger people that are very conversant."
Rounding out the top five places visited by Honolulu users were regional and local sites such as CitySearch and Craigslist. This category occupied the eighth spot nationally. The No. 5 category nationally was social networking.
Scarborough, a consumer research company owned by The Nielsen Co. and Arbitron Inc., also surveyed the top Web purchases made by O'ahu adults. The most popular purchases were airline tickets, followed by other travel products and then apparel and accessories, books and computer hardware and software.
Nationally airline tickets was tops, followed by books, apparel and accessories, other travel products, and CDs, tapes or other music.
Reach Greg Wiles at email@example.com.