The Role of the Real City in Cyberspace: Understanding Regional Variations in Internet Accessibility and Utilization
Since 1993, when the first graphical web browser, Mosaic, was released into the public domain, the Internet has evolved from an obscure academic and military research network into an international agglomeration of public and private, local and global telecommunications systems. Much of the academic and popular literature has emphasized the distance-shrinking implications and placelessness inherent in these rapidly developing networks. However, the relationship between the physical and political geography of cities and regions and the virtual (or logical) geography of the Internet lacks a strong body of empirical evidence upon which to base such speculation.
This chapter presents the results of a series of studies conducted from June 1996 to August 1998. Our research suggests there is a metropolitan dominance of Internet development by a handful of cities and regions. We identity and describe an emerging structure of "virtual" hubs and pathways which are linking a set of major cities in the United States, suggesting that there is a complex emerging inter-urban communications network that goes far beyond Castells' (1989) informational mode of development.