The internet is not a right

21:21, Mar 08 2010

A recent BBC poll showed that among adult respondents, four in five believed access to the internet was a fundamental right.

At the risk of sounding like some old-fashioned headmaster, I don't think access to the internet is a fundamental right, but a privilege.

I would have liked to see the exact question they asked, but unfortunately the methodology wasn't available.

If you live in a rural community, a jungle, a desert or Antarctica and there's no internet access, you can't exactly complain about your fundamental rights being violated.

However, I do understand that if access is available but withheld or censored, it's a different story.

In general, though, I think people born in the age of the internet are getting a bit too accustomed to life with this powerful tool at their disposal and have begun to think of it as a universal right.

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If you have access to the internet, which you probably do if you are reading this blog, count yourself among the lucky.

According to 2009 statistics, only one in four people on Earth have internet access, although that figure is steadily rising.

It's true that the right to communicate is a human right, and a very important one.

According to the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are entitled to "freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

We have freedom of expression, but the means by which we convey that expression is not a given right - the internet is such a means.

In 20 years, will people think having a cell-phone is a human right? An iPhone? A cooked breakfast and a footrub?

We may think of such trivial things as a fundamental right, but consider the truly impoverished and what is most important to them.

The right to vote, the right to liberty and freedom from slavery or the right to elementary education.

Internet access is an extremely powerful and valuable tool, one which has many uses but the internet is a service, and unfortunately not a public one.

According to the poll, over 70 percent of respondents in Japan, Mexico and Russia said they couldn't live without the internet.

Perhaps it's time for a reality check, and to re-examine which of our "rights" are truly important.

What do you think? Are we accustomed to an abundance of internet access? Is it a human right? Will it ever be? How about other technology like telephones, broadband or satellite TV?

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