Broadband Adoption| Measuring Digital Citizenship: Mobile Access and Broadband

Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, Allison Hamilton


How should we measure broadband adoption by individuals and communities, given different modes of access, including home broadband, smartphone use, and public access? We measure online activities and indicators of skill to understand opportunities for digital citizenship, or participation in society online. Based on a 2011 survey in Chicago, we find more mobile phone adoption among Blacks than among non-Hispanic Whites, and greater likelihood of Internet use for job searches among residents who rely primarily on smartphones to go online than among home broadband adopters. Yet our analysis also shows that broadband at home remains critically important for digital citizenship, and that the growth in mobile phone use has not erased inequalities in participation online and seems unlikely to do so. Moreover, smartphones are not bridging the gap in disadvantaged communities. Multilevel statistical models show inequality in both Internet access and economic and political activities across geographic areas, or communities. Technology disparities that are patterned by place have implications for opportunity and equity at the neighborhood level.

Full Text: