Telecommunications Infrastructure in the Southeastern United States: Urban and Rural Variation



The capabilities of central office (CO) telephone switches in four southeastern states (Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee) provide detail on spatial variation in telecommunications technologies. A proposed six-level hierarchy of switch capability was used. Switches with digital capability are concentrated disproportionately in metropolitan areas, largely in response to larger numbers of business establishments. The overall picture in the Southeast is one of tremendous variation—variation across states and variation within the four states being studied. Rural (nonmetro) counties generally, but not always, have both fewer switches overall and fewer switches with digital capability. North Carolina and Tennessee, the two most urban of the four states, also have seen the greatest entry by new telecommunications competitors. These two states have the largest percentages of advanced (digital) switches in both metro and rural counties. At the county level, the number of switches is primarily a function of a county's population but, even more significantly in three states, of the number of business establishments in the county. On the whole, it is residents of metropolitan—not rural—areas who are most likely to be served by newer forms of digital telecommunications.