Monday, March 08, 2010

Is internet access "a fundamental right"?

Freedom of speech is regarded as an inalienable natural right. Is there also a right to hear the speeches of others? The world seems to think so, as the BBC reports:
Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.

The survey - of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries - found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide.

Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens.

International bodies such as the UN are also pushing for universal net access. [Emph. original]

Hat tip: The Clue Meter

When I read the poll, I wondered how many thought "a fundamental right" meant that every person should be given, free of charge, computer equipment for their personal use. As that requires others to provide work and services for free, that would be a strange kind of "fundamental right." However, the same poll (PDF) reported that 53% believe that "the internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere." That would be inconsistent with interpreting it as a right to free-government-paid-for internet-access and more consistent with a "right to hear others speak."

MEANWHILE, Ryan Singel (hat tip: Instapundit) writes about the various forces lobbying for the US and other governments to regulate and monitor internet use.

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