The Bumpy Road to Universal Access: An Actor-Network Analysis of a US Municipal Broadband Internet Initiative
J.J. Po-An Hsieh, Mark Keil, Jonny Homström, Lynette Kvasny
Universal high-speed Internet access can productively transform a nation’s economy. However, many municipalities in the U.S. have been left behind in terms of Internet penetration. Some municipal governments have tried to address this by launching initiatives that aim at offering citywide, universal broadband access. Unfortunately, most of these initiatives have either been discontinued or have ended in failure. Drawing on actor-network theory, we conducted a three-year study to investigate the evolution of the Internet TV initiative in LaGrange, Georgia, U.S. The results reveal distinct interpretations of the initiative by different actor groups (the government, the service providers, socioeconomically advantaged residents, and socioeconomically disadvantaged residents), at different stages of implementation, pointing to tensions among the various groups. These tensions reflect the structural problems embedded in the macro political, economic, and societal context. The findings offer insights for policymakers who intend to achieve universal broadband access.
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