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Turning Metcalfe on his Head: The Multiple Costs of Network Exclusion

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journal contribution
posted on 01.09.2007, 00:00 by Rahul Tongia, Ernest J. Wilson
Most studies of the digital divide and network connectivity begin by asking how many people are in a network, and what are the network effects associated. We flip the framing by using on the excluded instead of the included. We find, looking at Metcalfe’s Law, Reed’s Law, and other network “Laws” that all of them provide a techno-optimistic view of increasing network value and penetration, when, in reality, the excluded face increasing costs of exclusion. In fact, our simple model shows that the costs of exclusion rise faster than the growth of the network, and are approximately exponential. In addition to such a framing, we introduce ideas of exclusion across multiple networks, which could be considered multiple layers or dimensions of a broader connectivity graph. This initiates the groundwork for further theoretical and empirical analysis on network exclusion, combined with the policy implications of increasing costs of network exclusion.