Americans mixed about constant Net access, poll finds

Poll respondents are enthusiastic about new technologies but are concerned about the repercussions, especially on children.
Written by Caroline McCarthy, Contributor
Americans are enthusiastic about new tech like mobile video and high-definition broadband but at the same time express trepidation about nonstop access to the Net, according to a new poll.

The telephone survey of 1,066 American adults conducted by pollster Zogby International covered a range of issues pertaining to everyday access to broadband media and mobile devices. The poll was sponsored by Redback Networks, an Internet Protocol router company purchased by Ericsson late last year. Redback manages telephone carriers' "triple-play" packages that include Internet Protocol television (IPTV) and video-on-demand.

Redback's press release highlighted the result that 53 percent of respondents said they would switch from cable or satellite to IPTV if they had access to the same content. But other results painted a more ambiguous picture of Americans' opinions of emerging technology.

Sixty-four percent of respondents with children under 18, for example, said they believe mobile TV in cars would be a useful way to keep kids entertained--but 70 percent still wouldn't subscribe if given the option. Additionally, 81 percent think it's a bad idea for children to have access to mobile TV on their cell phones and other handheld gadgets.

Mobile television received a similarly lukewarm response when it came to adult viewing. Only 20 percent of all those polled said that high-quality TV service on their mobile devices and computers would result in their watching more television, though this figure jumped to almost 40 percent when only the opinions of those between 18 and 34 were considered.

Only 38 percent believed high-speed Net connections and Net-enabled devices made them "too connected" to their jobs. But respondents were concerned about excessive mobile device use: 70 percent believe it's possible to become addicted to a BlackBerry or related device, 75 percent say it's rude to use the handheld gadgets in meetings or restaurants, and 80 percent believe it's reasonable to ban use of Internet-enabled devices while driving.

The latter result may be related to the fact that 12 percent said they had or almost had an accident when they were checking e-mail on their BlackBerry while driving.

And related to the potential addiction factor: 5 percent acknowledged checking e-mail on mobile devices in the bathroom

Despite their skepticism, poll respondents were optimistic about the development of new technologies. Eighty-eight percent expect that the next five years will see video cell-phone calls become a reality, and 89 percent said that high-quality live TV on the Internet will emerge within the same time frame.

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