Class Distinctions in Urban Broadband Initiatives

Authored by: Germaine Halegoua

The Routledge Companion to Media and Class

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138493612
eBook ISBN: 9781351027342
Adobe ISBN:


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Urban broadband initiatives promise to improve services, connect communities, and enhance economic development and entrepreneurship in designated metropolitan areas. More often than not, these broadband plans aim to ameliorate digital divides by offering more affordable, comprehensive, and high-speed internet connection for diverse populations. Based on ethnographic analysis of Kansas City’s Google Fiber for Communities and ConnectHome initiatives, this chapter investigates class-based encodings of internet access that are common among urban broadband projects within the USA. Representations of internet use and the spaces in which members of the public might use the internet emphasize class distinctions that value certain social and economic classes and taste cultures over others. Drawing on cultural studies understandings of media and class, the chapter traces the making of a broadband underclass. Through an analysis of marketing materials and demos, interviews with users and non-users, and the public and private spaces in which urban broadband projects are implemented, this chapter highlights specific and repeated instances of class-based constructions of connectivity, mobility, and home within broadband projects as well as the patterns of broadband adoption that are encouraged by these representations.

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