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

Listed author(s):
  • Shane Greenstein

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6453.

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Date of creation: Mar 1998
Publication status: published as Greenstein, Shane. "Building And Delivering The Virtual World: Commercializing Services For Internet Access," Journal of Industrial Economics, 2000, v48(4,Dec), 391-411.
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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