Crime as an excuse for not providing internet in specific neighbourhoods: a quantitative approach to broadband ‘Red Zones’ in Santiago de Chile

TitleCrime as an excuse for not providing internet in specific neighbourhoods: a quantitative approach to broadband ‘Red Zones’ in Santiago de Chile
AuthorNicolás Valenzuela, Gabriela Pizarro, Pablo Arriagada, Juan Pablo Fogueroa
Line(s)Dinámicas Socioespaciales
Year of Publication2023
Journal TitleInformation, Communication & Society
KeywordsDigital divide; crime; COVID-19; Latin America; Global South
AbstractWhile internet connectivity is a key promise of progress and the rule of law, criminal contestation of state control over territory is considered one of the main obstacles for development. This article provides the first known quantitative approach to the link between urban lawlessness and internet provision. Taking the Santiago Metropolitan Region (SMR) – the capital of Chile – as a case study, the authors discuss the origins of Red Zones (areas where telecommunication companies do not provide fixed broadband). A first hypothesis is based on the corporate excuse given by telcos for Red Zones: criminal activities – and not just socioeconomic discrimination – are a force majeure that impede internet connectivity in specific neighbourhoods. An alternative hypothesis acknowledges criminal governance in Latin American cities, admitting the possibility of criminal redistribution being favourable to internet connectivity where state control is contested. Employing a random effects regression model with panel data from 52 boroughs during the 2012–2020 period, the two hypotheses are tested. Contestation of the territorial control by the state is significantly and positively correlated to fixed broadband connectivity in the SMA. In contrast, lower connectivity is linked to higher presence of poor households, favouring a profit-based explanation for the Red Zones. The results hold when replacing the percentage of contested territory per borough with the murder rates. This research contributes to heterodox views within institutional economics and highlights the need of state-led redistribution in order to retake control of contested territories.
Doihttps://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2023.2227691
Corresponding AuthorNicolás Valenzuela, ndvalenz@uc.cl