Argument: Internet access is essential now; must be a right

Issue Report: Is Internet access a human right?


Cory Doctorow. “Warning to all copyright enforcers: Three strikes and you’re out.” July 1, 2008: “I mean, it’s not as though internet access is something important right?

In the past week, I’ve only used the internet to contact my employers around the world, my MP in the UK, to participate in a European Commission expert proceeding, to find out why my infant daughter has broken out in tiny pink polka-dots, to communicate with a government whistle-blower who wants to know if I can help publish evidence of official corruption, to provide references for one former student (and follow-up advice to another), book my plane tickets, access my banking records, navigate the new Home Office immigration rules governing my visa, wire money to help pay for the headstone for my great uncle’s grave in Russia, and to send several Father’s Day cards (and receive some of my own).

The internet is only that wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press in a single connection. It’s only vital to the livelihood, social lives, health, civic engagement, education and leisure of hundreds of millions of people (and growing every day).

David D. Burstein. “The Case for the Internet: A Human Right.” Huffington Post. November 5, 2009: “is the internet a fundamental human right? I’m going to boldly stand with the Finns on this one and say yes.

I might get some angry emails for this, and while today it might be difficult to make the case that internet access is as much of a basic right as food or shelter, in five or ten years, I believe there will be basic agreement on this. Those of us who have internet access now, don’t know how we would live without it. Everything we do and everything we want to do is somehow linked to our computer and our internet connection. It’s not a joke to say that those who have internet connections now need them to continue surviving. It’s how we communicate with our relatives and friends, it’s how we find phone numbers and addresses, it’s how we get our basic goods and services, it’s how most of us work and keep our jobs, and by extension provide for our families, and it’s how many people find jobs. Many of us have jobs that would be impossible to maintain without the internet, without the ability to do research or send emails we would be fired in a day.

So if people who are online now actually cannot survive without internet connections, if it allows people to advance in their careers and life position, if it is an invaluable tool, shouldn’t we afford everyone the right to have it? In fact, it seems not having internet access could be the biggest barrier to entry in just about any field or aspect of society today. If we want everyone to have the opportunity to advance in society, giving everyone internet access is a great way to make some progress.

[…] But perhaps most fundamental, is that part of the human experience is that we interact with other people, we are social animals, we distinguish ourselves from all other beings by being able to speak and communicate in highly complex ways. For thousands of years that’s meant speech, writing, radio, television, and now the internet. The internet has become without a doubt a fundamental part of human interaction, depriving some people who don’t have access to the internet of that part of the human experience–because they can’t afford it–is violating a human right. I hope that other countries, including this one, will follow the lead of Finland and France and grant internet access as a human right to their citizens.”

A human “The rapid growth of Information and Communication Technologies and innovation in digital systems represent a revolution that has fundamentally changed the way people think, behave, communicate, work and earn their livelihood. This so-called digital revolution has forged new ways to create knowledge, educate people and disseminate information. It has restructured the way the world conducts economic and business practices, runs governments and engages politically. It has provided for the speedy delivery of humanitarian aid and healthcare, and a new vision for environmental protection. It has even created new avenues for entertainment and leisure. As access to information and knowledge is a prerequisite to achieving the Millennium Development Goals – or MDGs – it has the capacity to improve living standards for millions of people around the world. Moreover, better communication between peoples helps resolve conflicts and attain world peace.”