April 02, 2002
By Justin Pope, Associated Press
BOSTON -- Silicon Valley still rules the wired world, but Boston and Olympic hometown Salt Lake City are the big movers in an annual survey of America's most Internet-saavy cities.
Recession or not, Boston jumps 12 places to No. 4 in this year's survey, published in the May edition of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, while Salt Lake City jumps 23 places to sixth. San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas, maintain their grip on the top three spots, which they've held in all but one of the five annual surveys.
The issue hits newsstands April 16.
The magazine says it prides itself on a formula that measures more than just Net use and high-tech jobs to get a sense of which communities really make the most of the Web.
"We're trying to capture really a holistic view of cities' use of the Internet," said Don Wilmott, the magazine's technology editor. In addition to basic stats, "we also look at the extent to which businesses are online in the city, how sophisticated the users in that city are. We measure that by how often they shop and how many have gotten fast access."
The formula also includes an evaluation of content available in the area, including a more subjective ranking of how well local government uses the Net. That helped give Boston a boost, although for the other criteria the magazine evaluated not only Boston but 10 suburban counties.
"It really is one of the best city Web sites," said Wilmott of www.cityofboston.gov. "This year, we're really emphasizing the idea that city government needs to start moving itself online and letting people know that as a way to make people more wired."
This is the first time in the survey's history the magazine hasn't tinkered with the formula from one year to the next, allowing a true apples-to-apples comparison. San Francisco, San Jose and Austin-San Marcos, Texas, have held the top three spots every year except one, when Washington, D.C, seventh this year, snuck in.
Top-ranked San Francisco has the highest percentage of households using the Net (78.8), is No. 2 in online spending per user ($356) and in domains per 1,000 firms (4,163), and sixth in broadband use and interest (54.9 percent). The data is compiled from Forrester Research and Matthew Zook of the Internet Geography Project.
The rise of the Salt Lake City-Ogden, Utah, area is likely a one-time event, the raters said.
"Our theory is that the Olympics really raised its profile on the Net, and that could fall back," Wilmott said.
Chris Anderson, president of the Massachusetts High Technology Council, said the rankings show Internet use is "recession proof" and highlight the role of Boston-area businesses in the Internet's infrastructure.
"We talk about infrastructure in terms of roads and bridges and airports and energy, but information infrastructure is critically important in terms of where employees and businesses are located," he said. "To be ranked in the top five in the U.S. is an admirable achievement."
Other big movers included Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif., which jumped from 18th to 10th, though nearby Orange County, Calif., fell from fifth to 13th. Seven of the top 21 areas are in California.
The magazine ranks 86 metropolitan areas -- essentially any it can find enough information for. The bottom three this year were Tulsa, Okla., Scranton, Pa. and Gary, Ind., though Wilmott stresses it's not necessarily a mark of shame since there are plenty of areas that couldn't be ranked because there wasn't enough data available.
But Wilmott said the biggest news may not be who rose and fall, but the fact that almost everywhere, numbers were up, despite the recession.
It took a score of 36 out of 40 to win this year, up from 33.3. The 50th-ranked city scored 18.5 last year; this year's No. 50, Melbourne-Titusville-Palm Bay, Fla., scored 20.6.
"Everyone's getting better," Wilmott said.