Net access no fundamental right

Net access no fundamental right

Summary: News.com's Matt Asay finds much to mock in European Commission head Viviane Reding's argument that Internet access is a human right (quoting Matt here: "Microsoft Word document, which is really very ironic")The fourth element I would like to underline is the recognition of the right to Internet access.

SHARE:

News.com's Matt Asay finds much to mock in European Commission head Viviane Reding's argument that Internet access is a human right (quoting Matt here: "Microsoft Word document, which is really very ironic")

The fourth element I would like to underline is the recognition of the right to Internet access. The new rules recognise explicitly that Internet access is a fundamental right such as the freedom of expression and the freedom to access information. The rules therefore provide that any measures taken regarding access to, or use of, services and applications must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression and access to information and education as well as due process.

Matt thinks this is a hoot: "Wow. We live in such an entitlement culture that we expect to be handed everything, Internet access now included. Does that mean I'm guaranteed fast access, or will dial-up do?"

Short answer: Dial-up will not do. Now, I do not know what the EU considers fundamental rights (in true EU fashion, the Charter of Fundamental Rights is pretty inpenetrable), but I do know that the concept derives from the U.S. Constitution and that we do not have any "fundamental right to access information." If such a right existed, the right to net access would flow naturally.

But American fundamental rights only include:

  • Right to life
  • Right to freedom of movement
  • Right to own property
  • Right to procreate
  • Right to freedom of association
  • Right to freedom of speech
  • Right to equal treatment or equal protection before the law (fair legal procedures)
  • Right to freedom of thought
  • Right to vote
  • Right to freedom of contract

Perhaps we can imagine a world in which the right to vote is damaged by the inability to access government information. Or the right to speech is impacted by the inability to access the Internet. It doesn't exist right now. But the idea that there is a fundamental right to access information is not aguably in the U.S. Constitution.

So, I'm with Matt to a certain extent. There is no fundamental right to net access, tv access, newspaper subscriptions, cellphones, etc. But let's be clear: The concept of a fundamental right is that it's a right that government can't take away. Like France's push for a three-strikes law that would cut net access to repeat copyright violators. I think the French idea is deeply, fundamentally awful. But if government wants to pursue such a policy, should it be barred as a violation of fundamental right? No.

Yet Matt goes further.

if the government assumes Internet access as a fundamental right, it ultimately is granting itself the fundamental right to tax its citizens to pay for it.

That's pure nonsense. Government doesn't buy tv advertising for everyone or pay our ISP bills or fund a protest parade permit fee. If there were a fundamental right to net access, it would only stop the government from cutting off your access for being a serial downloader; it wouldn't mean the government was obligated to pay for your access.

Topics: Government US, Government

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

68 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • So let's all be barefoot and pregnant then.

    Especially in today's society where people with limited computer skills lose out for jobs, and how colleges demand students have broadband as a prerequisite as more and more classes have internet-based portions, or are completely internet-based...

    People need to keep up. Without the internet, what are they supposed to use? An abacus? Hammer and chisel? Pricking a finger and using it as a makeshift pen to write on a piece of birth tree mark?


    People who abuse the internet (downloading tons of movies illegally, et al) - that's another story. But in our society, people seem to abuse all sorts of things to start with. And no welfare king should be calling poor women welfare queens...


    HypnoToad72
    • RE: Net access no fundamental right

      @HypnoToad72
      What does any of that mean??
      Are you forgetting the world progressed absent the net? Now it simply makes things easier and faster. Perhaps these poor people will actually have to read, comprehend and learn in school or the local library?!? Oh perish the thought that someone would actually be held responsible vs blaming some thing or someone. What a cop out......
      vision1@...
  • RE: Net access no fundamental right

    There is no "Right to procreate", there is a right to try to procreate with a willing partner, but the government is not going to step in and assist should procreation fail.
    captain_gumu
    • That Doesn't Seem to Be the Case

      Looks to me like the government tries to screw everybody...
      hiraghm@...
  • RE: Net access no fundamental right

    I guess the impact of this depends on how they handle fundamental rights.

    As the post states, having a right to something doesn't mean the government automatically provides access to it. A right to free speech doesn't mean the government should fund my TV show so I can share my speech with the world.

    However, there are those who say health care is a fundamental right, and since that costs money, they feel the government should foot the bill for those who can't afford it. If Internet access is handled with that perspective, then it's not unrealistic to think that they also feel the government should tax to pay for those who can't afford their own access.
    brble
  • It as nothing to with human rights

    But the net is a essential service. The MPAA, RIAA and other organisations criminal in nature, whould like to be able to cut one's internet access whitout any real proof(a text file with a bunch of random IP address is no proof) of wrong doing and whitout any legal standing.

    Crimes should be processed in order of importance. Downloading is at the very bottom of the list. so when all murders are solve in the USA, all the terrorist group neutralise and all roberies solved then it will be time to attack those pesky downloader that dare to use the net to it's full potential.

    Mectron
    • You've got my vote.

      Paper ballots only of course.
      kozmcrae
    • Well said.

      Not to say that peoples' (especially SMBs') intellectual property isn't important, of course... :)
      HypnoToad72
    • What!

      Do you know why most murders are not federal crimes but most types of piracy, including illegal downloading, are federal crimes? Because the death of an individual though tragic does not rob the federal government of revenue put piracy which in the case of doenloading is nothing more than theft does potentially rob the federal government of it's share of the revenue through taxes.
      Apache19
      • Which means...?

        ...money is more important than human life?
        Wintel BSOD
  • Perspective and Priorities

    From a purely philosophical perspective, disregarding the Constitution (which has been amended several times, and can be amended again) it makes a lot more sense to have internet access as a fundamental right than that to carry a gun. America's perspective and sense of priorities are badly distorted. It reminds me of the ongoing "scandal" of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction, while at the same time "ultimate fighting" is shown in prime time with no warnings whatsoever. A bare breast is clearly more harmful than people trying to beat each other senseless. Go figure.
    Economister
    • WRONG

      The right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to the exercise of any other right.

      The right to keep and bear arms is not about hunting, or target shooting, or defending one's home against burglars.

      It is about the population being able to take arms against the government and if necessary overthrow it. The U.S. is not meant to have a standing army, and in 1934 the Supreme Court erroneously ruled that a sawed-off shotgun was not a *military* arm and therefore not protected by the 2nd Amendment (they were wrong; my father was issued a sawed-off shotgun to guard a coal dump in Europe during WWII).

      Fighting doesn't result in "unwanted" pregnancies. Sex does. Viewing sports competitions, including ultimate fighting (which I loathe), can prepare young males for their role as protectors and providers. Viewing promiscuous sex and nudity can lead to immoral behavior which leads to children being raised out of wedlock or murdered in the womb.

      Not the same thing.

      America, unlike the rest of the world, used to have a grown-up perspective about sex. Now we've become as addicted and obsessed with it as the rest of the planet.

      Getting back to the point, you can have no fundamental rights if you cannot protect those rights. Internet access won't help you protect those rights nearly as well as an M-16 will.
      hiraghm@...
      • Americans are the only ones who think so

        It's funny how so many Americans truly believe that their country would go to heck in a handbasket if the government took away their right to bear arms. The only reason I think so is that the US is the only country in the world where people consider carrying a gun to be a basic human right (often over, ironically, the right to feel safe in your own home and neighbourhood).

        It's sad to me that you honestly think that a child watching UFC and learning that violence is cool and fun is a better option to them seeing a woman's breast. You want to know WHY your country has both the highest gun murder rate AND the highest teen pregnancy rate in the first world? Because of people like you! People who think that sex is the devil and children should be taught abstinence and that carrying a gun is as fundamental as a right can get are the REASON that the US is considered among the least safe and least educated industrialized countries in the world.

        You put an extraordinary amount of money into a war, but textbooks for kids? Maybe a step towards getting internet access for everyone? Not a chance!
        Caggles
        • I guess only Americans know history

          Every totalitarian state which has enslaved its peoples first took away their weapons and the means of resistance.

          But the government can't take away our right to keep and bear arms, as the government DOES NOT GRANT RIGHTS to begin with.

          In point of fact, Americans KNOW that the individual right to arm oneself is one way to ENSURE the safety of our homes and neighborhoods.


          You have your facts twisted. The sheep may be the safest animals in the meadow, but the lambs are still slaughtered for their masters' interest, not their own.

          Our people used to be the best educated in the world. Why? Because we valued education and desired it. But the past 3 generations have increasingly looked upon education not as a means to a better life but as a means of indoctrinating children in P.C. Instead of viewing the acquisition of knowledge as fundamental to the individual's personal development, our increasingly powerful federal government sees it as nothing but a jobs preparation program.
          We now spend billions upon billions on education at every level. And our people are increasingly ignorant, uneducated and jingoistic.

          As for sex, WHEN the U.S. preached abstinence only, coincidentally, we also had the most highly educated citizenry on the planet. Children were raised, by and large, in a 2 parent family, and taught, by their parents, decent behavior rather than self indulgence. We didn't have the widespread weirdo crimes we have today (many of which we acquired through our interaction with other cultures) because people were not obsessed with drug addictions, the ultimate of which is SEX.

          Why do you think addictive behavior survived evolution? Addictive behavior is universally anti-survival, with one exception. Because the first addiction we're all born with, sex, is pro-survival for the species. heroine addicts are the most recidivist, because their "high" is most like that achieved during the endorphin release of sexual climax.

          Again, it is not that grown-up Americans are obsessed with sex, it is the rest of the increasingly juvenile world that is obsessed with sex. Suggesting that Americans who try to keep sex out of the minds of minors the same way we would keep other addictive substances out of their hands (until they are mature enough to handle the responsibility of procreation) is merely obsession, is on a par with a drunk suggesting a devout Moslem or Christian is obsessed with alcohol because *they* wish to abstain.

          It's not the guns that cause the violence or the deaths. It's the people. When the United States was founded, the founding fathers based the country's foundation that the average citizen was equal to any ruler.
          If the President and our representatives in Congress are taken from among the people, then the people themselves are the safest repository of power, particularly the power of life and death. The Founding Fathers presumed the competence and responsible nature of the individual, because back then the colonies were made up of and controlled by such individuals. Now, Americans are little different from the populations of the inferior nations so many have fled. Sheeple shoving responsibility for their own lives, and with it authority over those lives, away from themselves with both hands.

          We may be more violent than the sheeple of the world. Until recently, we were also more free.
          hiraghm@...
    • From the Declaration of Independence

      Possibly the most insightful document in history in relating the relationship between citizenry and government:

      "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness"
      hiraghm@...
  • forgot the most important American right

    ...to bear guns.
    Linux Geek
    • I prefer the one that guarantees the right...

      ... to arm bears! <eg>
      Confused by religion
      • I thought it was a right to

        "bare arms".

        (and bare legs, chests, butts, whatever!) :)
        John Zern
  • RE: Net access no fundamental right

    When I read John Stuart Mill Aeropagetica thirty plus years
    ago, I came to firmly believe his point that freedom of speech
    is the freedom to hear. With that simple construct, I think any
    regime that truly respected human rights would act positively
    to open up access to information and opinions.
    DannyO_0x98
    • Well said :)

      (nt)
      Caggles