Should Access to the Internet be a Human Right?

Should Access to the Internet be a Human Right?

As a parliamentary report calls for better web access in rural areas, one MP said everyone has the right to access broadband

Fiber Internet

For decades in the UK, access to things like electricity, gas and running water have been considered a basic right. Many leading figures are now asking if access to broadband should also be considered as important as a utility.
Conservative MP Neil Parish raised the issue by saying “access to broadband should be considered a fundamental right”.

Parish is also a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee. In early February it published a report on rural broadband, which highlighted just how poor Internet access is in remote areas.

The committee is also worried that broadband coverage is also substandard in rural areas and the UK could run the risk of becoming a “two-tier society”. They are especially concerned about the plight of five per cent of households (around 850,000 people), who are still getting below 2Mbps broadband.

The report suggests the Government should offer vouchers to these households that are unable to get faster speeds to help they pay for satellite broadband, which is capable of providing access in areas that are beyond the reach of cable broadband.

MP Anne McIntosh, the chairman of the committee does not endorse Mr. Parish’s claims that broadband is a “right”, but she did say it is “an essential everyday public utility”.

She went on to say without broadband “schoolchildren can’t do their homework, people can’t pay bills, or even watch a film. It is a case of the haves and have-nots”.

Many in the United Nations share Mr. parish’s view. In 2011, a report from the Human Right Council of the United Nations General Assembly declared web access is to be a basic human right as it enables people to “exercise there right to freedom of opinion and expression”.

Several countries have already taken measures to make sure this right is law. In 2009, France’s highest court, the constitutional Council, declared Internet access to be a basic human right. Finland followed suit a year later and vowed to provide 100Mbps broadband to all its citizens by 2015.

There’s support for the idea across the world. In 2010 the BBC World Service polled 28,000 adults form 26 countries and found that almost 80 per cent of people felt Internet access was a fundamental right.

But the principle has some high-profile critics, the most notably one being a vice president at Google Vint Cerf. He has said that technology “is an enabler of right, not a right itself”. Access to the web should be a ‘civil right’, he argues, not a human right.

Other Internet experts also agree with Cerf, citing the dangers of ‘human-rights inflation’. They go on to warn that labeling internet access as a human right will devalue other rights that are more important, like freedom of speech or the freedom from torture.

Unsurprisingly, Amnesty International and other campaign groups are saying that it’s wrong to equate Internet access with fundamental freedoms. It should be regarded as a part of the right to expect a reasonable standard of living, along with things like food, clothing, housing and medical care.

This argument matters because the government will feel more pressure to deliver faster broadband to everyone if it becomes accepted as a human right. That’s why MP’s who represent predominantly rural constituencies, like Mr. Parish, will continue to make the argument that web access is not just an essential service, but it’s a fundamental right.

The Facts
• Five per cent of the UK are unable to get broadband speeds above 2Mbps
• MPs have called for a voucher scheme to cut the cost rural households will have to pay to get faster speeds.
• In 2009 Frances Highest court said that access to the internet is a basic human right

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Sky Broadband is going to block porn by default

Sky Broadband is going to block porn by default

Blocked

5.3 million Sky Broadband customers are going to have their access to porn sites blocked by default. To access porn online Sky customers will need to turn off Sky’s Broadband Shield filter.

Sky like all other of the major broadband providers have been offering their customers an adult content filter as an option for the last year.

As well as blocking porn, the filter’s default age rating of 13 will now prevent access to sites concerned with dating, file-sharing, violence, drugs, suicide and self-harm.

Sky customers can now set the Broadband shield age filter to PG, 13, 18 or block only certain types of websites.

“What we are doing now is simply making sure that the automatic position of Sky Broadband Shield is the safest one for all – that’s ‘on’ – unless our customers choose otherwise” said Sky’s Lyssa McGowan in a blog post.

Sky Customers will now be e-mailed over the next few months asking them if they want to switch on the broadband filters. If they fail to respond, Sky will then automatically switch the filters on.

“Once Sky Broadband Shield is active, users will not be able to access any filtered sites unless they choose to login and change the setting to the Shield,” McGowan explained.

“However they can still browse away from the filtering page to visit any sites they wish suitable for a 13 year old without any interruptions”

Sky has said its customers can choose to switch off the filters at any time they wish and they wont be pestered after that.

Do you approve of Sky blocking porn sites by defaults? Please leave your comments below.

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BT Extends Super-fast broadband

BT Extends Super-fast broadband

What Happened?

BT Infinity

BT Infinity has arrived

BT have said it that it will be converting 99 more exchanges to fibre broadband, this is good news as it will extend its super-fast network to 1.2 million more homes. – A total of 19 million premises.

This is all part of BT’s effort to offer super-fast speeds to at least two thirds of the UK. Most homes will receive BT’s fibre-to-the-cabinet broadband (FTTC), This is were fibre runs from the exchange to the street-side cabinet and then copper cables from the cabinet to your house.

Half the homes to get fibre broadband will benefit from the upgraded exchange. The other half are in “infill” areas with Street-side cabinets that BT have not yet run fibre to, despite upgrading the exchanges over the last few years.

This has created a broadband divide in neighbourhoods as some streets are capable of receiving super-fast speeds, and others are not.

BT hasn’t said when the exchanges and cabinets are going to be upgraded, but the work will be happing over the next year, and finishing before Spring 2014. The full list of areas due to get fibre next is available on BT’s website.

How will It Affect You?

If you are one of the lucky ones living near an exchange set to get fibre you will be able to receive speeds of up to 80Mbps. It’s also good news for customers near street-side cabinets that have been overlooked. If fibre has hit your neighbourhood but not your street, this is a clear message from BT that you won’t be permanently left behind.

What Do I Think?

I am glad to see BT is not forgetting about areas that didn’t receive fibre broadband during the first few rounds of upgrades. However, BT should have explained to its customers the complexities of delivering broadband better. If a few streets within a area don’t get super-fast speeds, BT should tell the locals exactly why they have been missed and when they can expect to catch up.

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