Thursday, July 02, 2015

FCC commissioner: Internet access not a human right

By Josh Peterson |

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Internet access is neither a necessity nor a human right, an FCC commissioner said during a recent speech, adding to the debate over the importance of the Internet in people’s lives.

Speaking to a packed audience on Capitol Hill, FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly outlined his view on the role of regulators in the broadband economy, railing against what has become the orthodoxy of the technology elite who argue in favor of the increasingly central role communications technologies playes in modern life.

“It is important to note that Internet access is not a necessity in the day-to-day lives of Americans and doesn’t even come close to the threshold to be considered a basic human right,” O’Rielly told the tech policy savvy crowd.

O’Rielly’s remarks come as the FCC considers subsidizing Internet access through a controversial government program, and against the backdrop of a politicized process of some advocates influencing the FCC to more strictly regulate broadband providers in the name of startups and protecting free speech.

In April 2011, inventor of the World Wide Web and Ford Foundation trustee Sir Tim Berners-Lee told an MIT symposium, “access to the Web is now a human right.”

One month later, an independent UN investigator reported the results of an “international fact-finding mission,” saying that the free flow of information on the Internet enabled “other basic human rights.”

“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States,” concluded the report’s author, former U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue.

Seven months later, Google’s chief “Internet evangelist” Vint Cerf — an American Internet pioneer widely considered one of the fathers of the Internet — made a similar remarks in a New York Times oped, stating that while he did not think that Internet access was a human right, it might be considered a civil right.

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