I live in a rural location not far from Oxford and have on average a download speed of
0.4 Mb/s 0.9 Mb/s (it has become faster in the past year!). To say that I live in a ‘slow spot’ is an understatement. It is often more like a ‘no-spot’. This means that it is almost impossible to do even the most basic tasks online without nearly exploding from frustration.
Take for instance this website you are now visiting…the creation of it took at least 4 times as long as it should have done because of the extraordinary slow connection. Just uploading the photo above this text gave me enough time to go to the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea.
My personal experience with inadequate Internet fuelled my interest to investigate how others cope with it and to understand the impact of different policies and interventions on the availability and speed of Internet access.
I have been interested in so-called digital inequalities for quite a while now — i.e. those who do not use the Internet or use it significantly less and less broadly than most of society and are hence disadvantaged in various ways. In my previous projects I mainly focused on those who are Internet non-users or low users because of their disadvantaged position within society, e.g. low income, unemployment, or low education.
This project really intrigues me, because those in ‘slow spots’ in rural areas are facing a type of ‘forced’ inequality that potentially affects their everyday lives quite significantly. In contrast to my previous research focus, it is often not a lack of income or Internet-related skills that leads to low use, but it is the slow connection in itself that prevents rural Internet users from making full use of the broad range of services that is now available online.
I am especially interested in how this forced exclusion from things that require a fast(er) connection (e.g. videos, social networks) may affect people’s personal lives, work performance, school performance, etc.