05 November 2008

Too Right

This is something that I've been thinking in the context of the wretched "three strikes and you're out":

The internet is a right. We have reached the point at which enabling and assuring open, unfettered, and universal access to the internet should become a hallmark of civilized societies. The Global Agenda Council stands in a position to make this the goal of nations.

In civilized societies, universal education is a right. In some nations, health care is a right. Some other services provided in the common good may require payment but in developed nations are nonetheless considered rights: access to clean water and electricity. In the United States, even telephones are a right, as users pay fees to subsidize the cost of getting lines to all people. In the United Kingdom, television is a right insofar as the government levies a tax to support it. Such rights may be met publicly or privately.

Access to the internet – and open, broadband internet that is neither censored nor filtered by government or business – should be seen, similarly, as a necessity and thus a right. Just as we judge nations by their literacy, we should now judge them by their connectedness.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. There are also the practical implications. Such a ban would be little different from banning someone from using the phone network, reading newspapers, using the Royal Mail and going to public libraries.

As I know you are very well aware, our local and central government and its institutions are urging citizens to use the Internet for interaction with the services they offer, many of which are essential, even compulsory.

For example, Companies House offers payment discounts to those who submit company returns using the Web rather than the traditional paper forms. I think the Inland Revenue has similar incentives (or should that be *penalties*?).

It's becoming more difficult and more expensive to use the traditional methods of accessing services and of fulfilling our civic duties. Give it another three years or so and banning a person from accessing the Internet and its services (at least here in the UK) will be tantamount to preventing them from interacting with both government and society at large.

People prohibited from accessing the Internet won't be able to look for work, avail themselves of their consumer rights, communicate with their customers, manage their bank account, file their tax returns, etc. etc. In short, they won't be able to function adequately in contemporary society.

IMO, this legislation smacks of politicians and bureaucrats who are ignorant of the nature of both technology in general and The Network in particular.

Glyn Moody said...

That's right, there's this real disconnect. On the one hand, they're pushing "joined-up government", on the other, they're threaten to withdraw the only way of accessing it.

Anonymous said...

While this is certainly true, don't underestimate governments' subtle and persistent war against both openness and transparency. In the US, perhaps like many countries, internet access is being sliced and diced among issues such as increased access costs, lower bandwidth limits, corporations and telcos against net neutrality, and such. Further, more and more state governments are tying specific crimes to permanent loss of internet access, as in a life (ban) sentence!

The strange flip side of this is how many elderly people voluntarily opt out of having a home computer and internet access, which could clearly reduces expenses, improve their lifestyles, and expand their avenues of communication within their own families.

Glyn Moody said...

Indeed, governments remain deeply sceptical of openness; I wonder why....