The Internet Backbone and the American Metropolis
Mitchell L. Moss
Taub Urban Research Center
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
New York University
Anthony M. Townsend ([email protected])
Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
the rapid growth of advanced telecommunications services, there
is a lack of knowledge about the geographic diffusion of these new
technologies. The Internet presents an important challenge to communications
researchers, as it threatens to redefine the production and delivery
of vital services including finance, retailing, and education. This
paper seeks to address the gap in the current literature by analyzing
the development of Internet backbone networks in the United States
between 1997 and 1999. We focus upon the inter-metropolitan links
that have provided transcontinental data transport services since
the demise of the federally subsidized networks deployed in the
1970ís and 1980ís. We find that a select group of seven highly inter-connected
metropolitan areas consistently dominated the geography of national
data networks despite massive investment in this infrastructure
over the study period.
while prosperous and internationally-oriented American cities lead
the nation in adopting and deploying Internet technologies, interior
regions and economically distressed cities have failed to keep up.
As information-based industries and services account for an increasing
share of economic activity, this evidence suggests that the Internet
may aggravate the economic disparities between regions, rather than
level them. Although the capacity of the backbone system has slowly
diffused throughout the metropolitan system, the geographic structure
of interconnecting links has changed little.
Finally, the continued persistence of the metropolis as the
center for telecommunications networks illustrates the need for
a more sophisticated understanding of the interaction between societies
and technological innovations.
Keywords: Internet backbone, technology diffusion, cities, metropolitan
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support from the National Science Foundation, under the Urban Research
(C) 1999, 2000, 2001 Taub Urban Research Center, New York University