Theses Master's

Urban Digital Divides and Community WiFi: A Case Study of Red Hook, Brooklyn

Saberi, Houman

As a research area, the scholarship on the digital divide has largely focused on the difference in internet access and availability between urban and rural sites. The proposed research endeavor investigates the digital divide within urban areas to understand the linkages between resiliency, information and communication technologies (ICT), and the field of urban planning. Using GIS visualization and a case study approach, this thesis examines internet access and availability within New York City. The GIS visualization draws upon public sources of data to map areas with low internet penetration within the study area. The case study approach involves interviews with members of Red Hook WiFi, an organization in Red Hook, Brooklyn that is working to address the digital divide through training and community outreach. Using this mixed-methods approach, several conclusions came to light: 1) that the urban digital divide aligns with the theoretical understanding of it as "pockets of inclusion and exclusion" with a socio-economic underpinning, as reported in the literature; 2) current and planned initiatives to address this divide are not sufficient; and 3) the community developed and owned WiFi network has enabled key resiliency capacities that need to be built upon. Given these conclusions, this study concludes by discussing the role that urban planning can play in fostering more resilient communities by becoming engaged in broadband planning and also offers recommendations for city agencies, local organizations, and planners themselves.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 23, 2015