Why Should Cities Provide Wireless Broadband Access?

46 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2012

Date Written: August 15, 2006


Localities justify their wireless broadband (Wi-Fi) initiatives on two grounds: (1) to overcome a persistent digital divide in broadband availability and (2) to facilitate online activities that improve the welfare of residents, the productivity of businesses, and the efficiency of local governments. This paper assesses both these claims. Using individual-level data from Forrester Research, the analysis finds significantly lower residential broadband adoption in lower-income and lower-density zipcodes, controlling for individual characteristics. Further tests show that lower adoption in these areas is evidence of a persistent digital divide in availability. The analysis then assesses how broadband adoption changes individuals’ usage of the online activities that localities cite to justify their Wi-Fi initiatives. Broadband adoption increases individuals’ frequency of researching health information online, but there is no evidence that broadband adoption increases usage of online job sites or online government services.

Suggested Citation

Kolko, Jed, Why Should Cities Provide Wireless Broadband Access? (August 15, 2006). TPRC 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2104394

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