"Where" matters: Location and Wi-Fi access

Tony H. Grubesic, Alan T. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Given the complexities of 802.1lb technology and the underlying geographic ramifications of the digital divide, it is clear that more work is needed to help us understand how space and this wireless technology will interact. This type of analysis will help promote more informed telecommunications policies and provide additional insight into the social, economic, demographic, and spatial dimensions of the digital divide. The purpose of this paper is to outline a methodology for documenting the physical presence of Wi-Fi networks in urban environments. In addition, it uses exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA) to examine the socioeconomic and demographic correlates of 802.1lb network availability at the neighborhood level by using a database of nearly 300 Wi-Fi hot spots in Cincinnati, Ohio. Results indicate a marked disparity in Wi-Fi activity between affluent and economically distressed neighborhoods. Moreover, it appears that central city locations benefit from a multitude of 802.1lb networks, particularly near high-density commercial and office buildings. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 explores the technological characteristics of wireless networks, with an emphasis on both Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and 802.11b (Wi-Fi). Section 3 outlines a methodology for documenting the physical presence of Wi-Fi network availability in urban environments, focusing on mapping and analysis using geographic information systems (GIS). Section 4 presents the results of tracking 802.1lb networks in the city of Cincinnati during January 2003. Because Cincinnati offers such a diverse collection of neighborhoods, particular attention is paid to the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of localities where Wi-Fi networks are active. Section 5 provides a brief discussion of the results, as well as concluding remarks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Urban Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies


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