Whacky Weekend: Is Internet Access a Human Right?

Marshall Eubanks marshall.eubanks at gmail.com
Thu Jan 5 16:26:50 UTC 2012

On Thu, Jan 5, 2012 at 11:07 AM, Jay Ashworth <jra at baylink.com> wrote:
> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Zaid Ali" <zaid at zaidali.com>
>> On 1/5/12 7:22 AM, "Jay Ashworth" <jra at baylink.com> wrote:
>> >Vint Cerf says no: http://j.mp/wwL9Ip
>> >
>> >But I wonder to what degree that's dependent on how much our governments
>> >make Internet access the most practical/only practical way to interact
>> >with them.
>> >
>> >Understand: I'm not saying that FiOS should be a human right. But as a
>> >society, America's recognized for decades that you gotta have a telephone,
>> >and subsidized local/lifeline service to that extent; that sort of subsidy
>> >applies to cellular phones now as well.
>> I agree with Vint here. Basic human rights are access to food, clothing
>> and shelter. I think we are still struggling in the world with that. With
>> your logic one would expect the radio and TV to be a basic human right but
>> they are not, they are and will remain powerful medium which be enablers
>> of something else and the Internet would fit there.
> Well, I dunno... as I think was obvious from my other comments: TV and Radio
> are *broadcast* media; telephones and the internet are not; they're *two-way*
> communications media... and they're the communications media which have been
> chosen by the organs of government we've constituted to run things for us.
> You hit the important word, though, in your reply: "*access to* food, clothing,
> and shelter"... not the things themselves.
> The question here is "is *access to* the Internet a human right, something
> which the government ought to recognize and protect"?  I sort of think it is,
> myself... and I think that Vint is missing the point: *all* of the things
> we generally view as human rights are enablers to other things, and we
> generally dub them *as those things*, by synecdoche... at least in my
> experience.
> If I'm not mistaken, Vint's on this list; perhaps he'll chime in.  :-)

Here is a way to think about it - is denial of X a violation of human
rights ? If so, access to X should be viewed as a human right.

Denial of food, for example, is certainly a violation of human rights.
That is not the same as saying that everyone always will be able to
afford to eat anything they want,
or in dire circumstances even all they need, but to deny food is
certainly to violate human rights.

I think that if we had heard that (say) Libya's Khaddafi had denied
(say) the people of Benghazi all access
to telephony, that that would be regarded as a violation of human
rights. (Actually, he did and it was).
People would, for example, start dying because no one could call an
ambulance in an emergency. It would
set the stage for further human rights violations, because no one
could alert the world to what was happening. Etc. In 1880, that
would not have been true, but today it is.

Is the Internet at that level ? IMO, no, but it will be soon. That is
not the same to say that everyone will get 100 Gbps for free,
any more than everyone gets to eat at La Tour d'Argent in Paris.


> Cheers,
> -- jra
> --
> Jay R. Ashworth                  Baylink                       jra at baylink.com
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