The spatial development of the Internet

                         Crum, Shannon L.; PhD

                         THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN, 2000

                         GEOGRAPHY (0366); MASS COMMUNICATIONS (0708)

                         This project undertook a multi-scale analysis of the spatial nature of the Internet, ranging from
                         metropolitan regions to international urban systems, through the lenses of four separate but interrelated
                         questions. First, is it possible to characterize the Internet's development with regards to urban, regional,
                         or national systems to better understand the spatial implications of and reasons for its growth? Second,
                         to what degree does Internet penetration mirror other forms of media? Is the Internet really a
                         “new” medium or has it merely subsumed older forms? Third, how are the economics of
                         the information society related to Internet penetration in cities of a range of sizes? Was the spatial
                         structure of the Internet driven by economic forces or the historical chance of being an early ARPANET
                         node the more important determinant of a region's location in the hierarchy of Internet connectivity and
                         use? Finally, to what degree do institutional and political factors like infrastructure support,
                         telecommunications policies, and geopolitical borders influence the spatialities of the internet at local,
                         regional, national, and international scales? The study found that factors influencing the spatial
                         expression of the Internet vary considerably by region and by scale. In the United States, a distinctive
                         hierarchy of urban places emerges, but it is one that is very different from pre-existing economic or
                         political urban hierarchies. In an opposite trend, in the rest of the world the pre-existing urban hierarchy,
                         especially as it pertains to the “global” cities with extensive economic power and reach,
                         mirrors the development of the Internet. Significantly different institutional, political, cultural, and
                         infrastructural foundations existed in the United States than in most other places, and that these factors,
                         particularly the infrastructural and political, were far more important than generalized economic conditions
                         for characterizing the diffusion of Internet technologies. Also, media penetration correlated strongly with
                         internet adoption at a national level. More important than generalized “media” was the
                         type, perhaps reflecting a cultural tendency to adoption. Finally, the structure of peering agreements
                         reinforces a U.S.-centered Internet, as it is frequently less expensive for countries to route traffic through
                         the U.S. rather than directly to its destination.


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