Internet Does Not Change the Fact that Most Communications are Relatively Local
A study by MIT professor Carlo Ratti, of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, confirms that even in an Internet age, most communications occur within 100 miles of where people live.
The data for the United Kingdom shows that only about 9.5 percent of communications cross a line about 100 miles north of London.
In Italy, only 7.8 percent of communications cross a line roughly along the northern border of the Emilio-Romagna region, above which lie the industrial and commercial metropolises of Milan and Turin.
In the past, when voice was the only form of telecommunications, most calling likewise was local and regional.
An analysis by the Federal Communications Commission, for example, looking at U.S. residential long distance calling from 1995 through 2002, showed a stable calling pattern where about 60 percent of long distance calling was intrastate, while 39 percent was interstate and international, combined.
But the key finding was the calling distance. The distance traveled by a typical call remained short, even long distance calls, and even within a continent-sized country.
Looking at all calls from 1999 to 2002, about half of all calls connect parties within 60 miles of each other and around 17 percent of toll calls are to parties only 10 to 20 miles distant.
About five percent of all residential calls terminated within 10 miles. Some 18 percent terminated more than 10 but less than 20 miles away.
About 13 percent of calls were placed to locations greater than 20 but less than 30 miles distant.
In other words, 36 percent of calls were to locations no more than 30 miles away.
And 61 percent of calls were to locations no more than 100 miles distant. Less than 19 percent of all calls were to locations 1,000 miles or more away.
The notion of the "local access and transport area" (LATA) illustrates the concept. When the old AT&T system was broken up in 1984, 163 LATAs were created across the United States, each representing an average of 500,000 people, but in practice ranging from 10,000 to 10 million people.
Most LATAs were contained within a single state, but sometimes a LATA spanned two states. The point is that intra-LATA calling is a proxy for distance. Intra-LATA calls travel the shortest distances.
Typically, inter-LATA calls within the same state traveled further, while the greatest distances were typical of inter-LATA calls between states (or internationally).
In 2002, for example, about 44 percent of calls were placed intra-LATA and intra-state (within the same local calling area and within the same state).
About 17 percent of calls left one LATA, but were terminated within another LATA within the same state.
About 34 percent of calls were to another state. Only about one percent of calls were placed to international destinations.
Then, as now, most communications take place between people not too far distant, a likely reflection of the fact that most economic, social and other activity takes place locally or regionally.