Second-level Digital Divide: a Longitudinal Study of Mobile Traffic Consumption Imbalance in France
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We study the interaction between the consumption of digital services via mobile devices and urbanization levels, using measurement data collected in an operational network serving the whole territory of France. We unveil that such an interaction follows a power law, or, in other words, there exists an emergent behavior that prompts subscribers living in increasingly extended and populate urban areas to exhibit a surging individual consumption of mobile traffic. The result holds for the global traffic, but is also consistently observed across a range of mobile services, although with varying intensity. An unprecedented longitudinal analysis of the phenomenon unveils how the imbalance in the per-capita mobile data traffic usage across cities of different size has grown steadily and substantially in the 2014–2019 time frame in France. Our study raises questions on the presence of second-level digital divides in developed countries, and paves the road to further investigations.