The Emerging Mobile Internet Underclass: A Critique of Mobile Internet Access
Philip M. Napoli and Jonathan A. Obar
This paper provides a critical comparative analysis of mobile versus PC-based forms of Internet access. Drawing from an inter-disciplinary body of literature, it illustrates a wide range of ways in which mobile Internet access offers lower levels of functionality and content availability; operates on less open and flexible platforms; and contributes to diminished levels of user engagement, content creation, and information-seeking. At a time when a growing proportion of the online population is “mobile only,” these disparities have created what is termed here a mobile Internet underclass. The implications of this argument for digital divide policymaking and, more broadly, for the evolutionary trajectory of the Internet and the dynamics of Internet usage are discussed.
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