The internet backbone and the american metropolis

Mitchell L. Moss, Anthony M. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite the rapid growth of advanced telecommunications services, there is a lack of knowledge about the geographic diffusion of these new technologies. The Internet presents an important challenge to communications researchers, as it threatens to redefine the production and delivery of vital services including finance, retailing, and education. This article seeks toaddress the gap in the current literature by analyzing the development of Internet backbone networks in the United States between 1997 and 1999. We focus upon the intermetropolitan links that have provided transcontinental data transport services sincethe demise of the federally subsidized networks deployed in the1970s and 1980s. We find that a select group of seven highly interconnected metropolitan areas consistently dominated the geography of national data networks, despite massive investment in this infrastructure over the study period. Furthermore, while prosperous and internationally oriented American cities lead thenation in adopting and deploying Internet technologies, interior regions and economically distressed cities have failed to keep up. As information-based industries and services account for an increasing share of economic activity, this evidence suggests that the Internet may aggravate the economic disparities among regions, rather than level them. Although the capacity of thebackbone system has slowly diffused throughout the metropolitansystem, the geographic structure of interconnecting links has changed little. Finally, the continued persistence of the metropolis as the center for telecommunications networks illustrates the need for a more sophisticated understanding of the interaction between societies and technological innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-47
Number of pages13
JournalInformation Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2000


  • Cities
  • Internet backbone
  • Metropolitan areas
  • Technology diffusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Cultural Studies
  • Information Systems
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'The internet backbone and the american metropolis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this