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"We call it Hi-Fi": Exposing Indian Households to High Speed Broadband Wireless Internet

Nithya Sambasivan
Gulzar Azad
Paul M. Aoki
Saswati Saha Mitra
ICTD '16, ACM, Ann Arbor, MI, USA (2016) (to appear)


As access to the Internet improves globally, we argue that speed is important for accelerated and full-fledged exploration of the Internet. We provided high-speed broadband service plans and Wi-Fi access points to 12 Internet-using Indian households in Delhi and Lucknow for three months. We sought to understand uptake, trajectories, behaviours, and developmental impact of the speed of the Internet on the daily lives of our respondents through a multi-phased study (baseline, in-situ usage, follow-up). Our findings suggest that high-speed Wi-Fi led to 2-3x increase in online activity and higher-bandwidth activities; spurred Internet skilling and instrumental uses online; shifted the time and space of device access; created social currency; and transformed the construct of Internet for the households. Ultimately, 8 out of the 12 households switched to high-speed Wi-Fi after the study concluded. We discuss considerations for policy and infrastructure deployments in introducing and onboarding new and existing users living with slow speeds to higher-quality networks