Digital Cities: The Internet and the Geography of Opportunity

Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, William Franko

Research output: Book/ReportBook

61 Scopus citations


In an age when the United Nations has declared access to the Internet a human right, and universal access to high-speed broadband is a national goal, urban areas have been largely ignored by federal policy. Federal policies have focused on rural infrastructure. Yet, the U.S. is a metropolitan nation, and urban applications offer unparalleled advantages for addressing both innovation and inequalities in broadband access. This neglect may result in the failure to realize the social benefits of broadband and a broadly-connected digital society. Connecting various levels of analysis, from the nation to the neighborhood, the authors break new ground and challenge assumptions in several areas. Offering evidence that mobile-only Internet users have dramatically lower levels of online activity and skill, they argue that this has become a second-class form of access, affecting many minorities and urban poor. Digital citizenship and full participation in economic, social, and political life requires home access. Using multilevel statistical models, the authors present new data ranking broadband access and use in the nation's 50 largest cities and metropolitan areas, showing considerable variation across places. Unique, neighborhood data from Chicago examines the impact of poverty and segregation on access in a large and diverse city, and parallels analysis of national patterns in urban, suburban and rural areas. Together, the chapters demonstrate the significance of place for shaping our digital future, and the need for policies that recognize cities as critical for addressing both social inequality and opportunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic)9780199979769
ISBN (Print)9780199812936
StatePublished - Jan 24 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Broadband
  • Cities
  • Digital citizenship
  • Digital divide
  • Digital society
  • Inequality
  • Internet
  • Public policy
  • Technology
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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