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Universal Service in the Digital Age: The Commercialization and Geography of U.S. Internet Access

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  • Shane Greenstein

Abstract

Many analysts anticipate a need to redefine universal service to account for Internet-related services and other combinations of communication and computing. This concern motivates a study of the geographic spread of the commercial Internet Service Provider (ISP) market suppliers of Internet access in the United States. The paper argues that two business models presently vie to diffuse commercially-oriented Internet-access across the US. One business model emphasizes a standardized national service, the other a customized local service. The paper then characterizes the location of over 14,000 access points, local phone numbers offered by commercial ISPs in the spring of 1997. Markets differ widely in their structure competitive to unserved. Just under three quarters of the US population has easy access to commercial Internet service providers, while approximately fifteen percent of the US population has costly access. Urban/rural coverage must be understood in the context of the different strategies of national/local providers.

Suggested Citation

  • Shane Greenstein, 1998. "Universal Service in the Digital Age: The Commercialization and Geography of U.S. Internet Access," NBER Working Papers 6453, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6453
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    1. Compaine, Benjamin M & Weinraub, Mitchell J, 1997. "Universal access to online services: An examination of the issue," Telecommunications Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 15-33, February.
    2. Shane M. Greenstein & Mercedes M. Lizardo & Pablo T. Spiller, 1997. "The Evolution of Advanced Large Scale Information Infrastructure in the United States," NBER Working Papers 5929, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Avi Goldfarb, 2004. "Concentration in advertising-supported online markets: an empirical approach," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(6), pages 581-594.
    2. Madden, Gary & Savage, Scott J. & Coble-Neal, Grant, 1999. "Subscriber churn in the Australian ISP market," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 195-207, July.
    3. Austan Goolsbee, 1998. "In a World Without Borders: The Impact of Taxes on Internet Commerce," NBER Working Papers 6863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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