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Closing information asymmetries: A scale agnostic approach for exploring equity implications of broadband provision

Tony Grubesic, Edward Helderop and Tooran Alizadeh

Telecommunications Policy, 2019, vol. 43, issue 1, 50-66

Abstract: A persistent challenge for telecommunications policy is the determination of broadband provision footprints in both space and time. In the United States, Form 477 data from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provide a valuable snapshot of broadband provision at the block level, but there are often inconsistencies with the underlying data. These inconsistencies include overly-optimistic self-reports from providers, requirements to report broadband provision within inflexible census administrative units, and a modest temporal reporting schedule (biannual) with a significant, one year temporal lag. These uncertainties are often compounded by telecommunications providers refusing to disclose any information on service footprints, geographic expansion plans or the characteristics of populations served by broadband. This type of obfuscation drastically limits the ability of policy analysts to evaluate outcomes (both positive and negative) associated with service provision and the digital divide, more generally. With the recent entry of Google Fiber to several metropolitan markets in the United States, many of the broadband reporting and evaluation challenges have re-emerged. The purpose of this paper is to leverage basic data mining techniques, a scale agnostic geographic framework and exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA), to uncover the geographic intricacies of Google Fiber (Fiber) service for both Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas and compare them to Form 477 reports. In addition, we use basic statistical approaches to explore issues of broadband access and equity, accounting for the differences in socio-economic and demographic status of the populace served/not served for both cities, as well as basic pricing within and between communities.

Keywords: Google fiber; Digital divide; Spatial equity; Broadband; Urban governance; Form 477 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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