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Is Internet access a basic human right?

by Bill Osler / February 5, 2010 8:52 AM PST

I don't think so. I'm convinced that the notion of 'basic human rights' is too easily thrown around without much thought. Still, I found this interesting:

In 2009, Finland became the first nation to mandate universal broadband along with a minimum speed. All Finns must have access to a 1-megabit per second broadband (Mbps) connection within 2 kilometers of their homes. Finland plans to increase the speed of connection for its populace from 1Mbps to 100Mbps by the end of 2015. What does it mean for Finns? Instead of minutes, data transfers for most tasks ? including web browsing, movie streaming and large file downloads ? will take only a few seconds.

I've had trouble finding good comparisons between the various speed choices for various technologies in real world situations, but my impression is that dialup peaks about 56 kbps (0.056 Mbps), 'regular' Ethernet is about 10 Mbps, 'fast' Ethernet ~100 Mbps, Gigabit Ethernet ~1000 Mbps. I think T1 lines are about 1-2 Mbps but I'm not sure. The usual numbers I've seen for DSL run in that same range. I've seen quotes for Cable Internet that are all over the map but my impression is that cable generally runs about the same as DSL and T1. My Internet (via home Fiber) is nominally 6 Mbps download but usually runs more like 3-4 Mbps. I can theoretically get EVDO 'broadband' from my cell company but my impression is that it's not a lot faster than dialup. Maybe I'd do better in an area that has better cellular coverage. I don't know.

What that means is that in about 5 years the 'average' Finn will be 'entitled' to Internet speeds about 15-30 times faster than the fastest provider I can access now. Huh? In what world does that make sense as an entitlement?

The article did discuss broadband availability in the US, and I see that as a problem it would be nice to solve, but there are places where people don't have a lot of other basic things I take for granted. Does it make sense to push for nationwide broadband when there are parts of the US that don't have reliable access to more fundamental needs?

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infrastructure is more than just roads and water,
by JP Bill / February 5, 2010 11:04 AM PST
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is it a quibble to focus on the phrase "Human Right" ?
by grimgraphix / February 5, 2010 11:57 AM PST

Coming from an extremely rural area... the young people around here are told over and over that the only way to overcome the lack of expansive opportunities is to get an education.

Education = access to information.

Is access to information a human right?

Course China is striving to control just what information its population can receive.

Is China violating the human rights of its population through government censorship?

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Total coverage is one reason that
by Roger NC / February 5, 2010 9:34 PM PST

there was considerable noise in the early 90's about piggybacking web access on to the power grid lines.

Unfortunately perhaps, the technology never really got off the ground, at least not outside a few communities. Now that would have allowed high speed access almost everywhere if it had came about. And it would have been an interesting competition in the more rural areas for the cable companies.

I'm not sure how much the technology has improved, but when cable companies around here started offering high speed access outside the cities and towns, the DSL from telephone companies were still fairly limited in how far you could live from the existing analog-to-digital switching points. Either they've extended the range or have moved the conversion points out, because it's available now in many areas now that then they said it wasn't possible. Indeed, there are a few roads around here that had telco DSL and no cable a couple of years ago when we were looking at buying a house.

But powerlines are pretty much everywhere, so that would have been interesting competition.


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Now there's an idea that makes enormous sense. Shame
by Ziks511 / February 8, 2010 11:49 AM PST

it didn't go anywhere.


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not any more
by oldie and goody / February 5, 2010 1:13 PM PST

than phone service is or any other means of communication or entertainment is.

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As I recall in the US, part of the issue with going digital
by Steven Haninger / February 5, 2010 7:26 PM PST

with television had to do with the ability to get warning messages out via TV broadcast. You may not remember CONELRAD over radio. We had radios on almost all day when home. Today it might be TVs (but not in my house) and now it may be computers. No one gave us the receiving devices but broadcasters were required to allow interruptions for alerts and even tests of the system. Maybe in the newer age, some are gearing up for this now. It may be that all radio and TV communication is expected to cease using transmission towers and go cable or satellite. Thus, important warnings could be made available to all who had a method of receiving them.

Now, we just wait for the government questionnaire asking us to fill out our hardware requirements for a new PC. My eyesight and hearing aren't that great anymore so I'm going to need a nice big monitor and good sound system.

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I don't remember the system but ...
by Bill Osler / February 5, 2010 9:08 PM PST

I always wondered what the funny symbols on the tuning dial were for. Now I know.

And you are certainly right about the need for equipment to overcome vision and hearing limitations. I KNOW that I NEED a 72" 3-D capable monitor with high quality 7.1 surround sound if they expect me to be able to hear and understand their warnings. And I'm sure it won't work with less than a high end quad core processor, 8 GB RAM and a few TB of disk space. Honestly, I NEED all that equipment. It's my right, and I'm entitled. And of course there will be equipment upgrades as technology progresses. After all, my vision and hearing will probably get worse with time, especially when I start cranking up the 7.1 surround for 'testing purposes'.

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by MarkFlax Forum moderator / February 5, 2010 9:33 PM PST

72 inch monitor huh? Happy

No, I don't think internet access is a right. As has already been said, access to telephones are not a basic human right. Of course, if you drill down through the technology ladder you see that to have internet access you need electricity, and there are plenty of communities around the world where they do not even have that.

To me basic human rights are involved with the right to life, and everything that implies.


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It isn't, any more than..
by EdHannigan / February 5, 2010 10:21 PM PST

electricity, roads, etc. Nice to have, but not a right. If a government wants to make it an entitlement, with the consent of the people, all well and good, but outside their purview, IMHO.

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I think it can be argued that ...
by Kees Bakker / February 5, 2010 10:34 PM PST

article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/) implies the right of access to Internet:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Better tell China?


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That is not legitimate"law".
by EdHannigan / February 5, 2010 10:46 PM PST

There is no such "right". It's just feelgood blather. They don't understand the concept of rights.

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That's a totally new aspect.
by Kees Bakker / February 5, 2010 10:55 PM PST

The difference between 'law' and 'right'. I can't find the word 'law' anywhere above. So why introduce it?

What's your opinion about this particular right: "whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it". I assume you know the source. And you being a true American, I assume you agree. Or do think it's "just feelgood blather" also?

Still, I'm sure that quite a few people (in England or so) thought it quite unlawful. Maybe there are more rights that rights that are written in laws?


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I think you know what I meant...
by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 12:18 AM PST

as a legal document that Declaration has little worth. Its definition of rights is suspect at best, that's all. Using it to bolster the idea that there's a basic right to internet access is laughable.

The U.S, Bill of Rights, for instance, IS the law of the land.

"Maybe there are more rights that rights that are written in laws?"

Undoubtedly, but that doesn't mean you can make any old thing s "right". You have the right to use internet access if you can pay for it or if it's given. But making it a right implies that someone MUST supply it to you, which violates real rights.

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which violates real rights.
by jonah jones / February 6, 2010 12:28 AM PST

so you have the right to bear arms ONLY if i give you a gun?

and yes, i know what you/he/they meant


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by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 12:45 AM PST

You have the right to bear arms. That is absolute. You do NOT have the right to have someone to provide you with a gun.

I have a right to drive a Cadillac, IF I own or rent or otherwise have legal access to one. No one is required to provide me with a Cadillac.If GM stops making Cadillacs, you can't sue them and force them to resume making them.

The Bill of Rights is law that prohibits the government from violating basic rights you already have, because you are human.

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(NT) but......but.....you said.... j/k
by jonah jones / February 6, 2010 1:18 AM PST
In reply to: No
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I think what I said...
by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 2:02 AM PST

is the opposite of what you think I said.

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I think we fairly much agree.
by Kees Bakker / February 6, 2010 3:09 AM PST

Let me see.

1. "You have the right to use Internet access". That was the issue of the opening thread. Is Internet a basic right? Apparently: yes (this is your quote).
2. Nobody in this thread said you had the right to FREE Internet access. Neither do you: "if you can pay for it".
3. Of course the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, if I remember well) are part of the American juridical system. Nobody will disagree with that.
4. The 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, like the 17xx US Declaration of Independence (which I quoted) are "just feelgood blather" (I don't know the meaning of 'blather', but I can more or less guess what you mean.

I assume you didn't read our fellow member MrKassner's recent opinion in post #5 of http://forums.cnet.com/5208-7817_102-0.html?messageID=3235940#3235940 he more or less maintains that everybody has the right to flat fee unlimited wireless Internet access to view sports and Youtube on their iPhone. "People aren't going to be on a per MB basis."
Feel free to add your opinion to that thread; it's a recent one.


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I dispute this...
by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 4:11 AM PST
"Nobody in this thread said you had the right to FREE Internet access."I believe that is the premise of the thread.
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You may believe so, of course.
by Kees Bakker / February 6, 2010 4:15 AM PST
In reply to: I dispute this...

But I don't read anything about price and terms and money and free in the thread starter (post #1 by Bill) or in the article he linked to. I might have overlooked it. Where exactly did you read it?


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See below...
by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 4:21 AM PST

it's simple logic.

Anyway, even if it doesn't mention FREE, how can you have a right to something someone else has to provide? If I live in an area where broadband is not available are my rights being violated? Why isn't fiber optic a basic human right?

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by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 4:17 AM PST
In reply to: I dispute this...
Next month, the United States will introduce a national program aimed at giving every American access to a fast Internet connection, raising the standard from a dial-up connection to broadband. Unlike other nations, however, the U.S. will stop short of declaring broadband access a basic human right.

If it's a basic human right, does that not mean ALL may have it, whether they pay for it or not? In other words, free? Seems obvious. Not all have the means to pay for it.
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Let's see in March ...
by Kees Bakker / February 6, 2010 4:29 AM PST
In reply to: Basic

what the national program will be. Until then it's just a guess. And your guess is just as good as mine.

My interpretation at the moment is that it's a technical target: broadband cable or ADSL or WiFi or WiMax or 3G mobile to each house that has electricity, while the current-standard is just 56Kbs dial-up.

Until the plans are released, this is a senseless discussion.


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So then...
by J. Vega / February 6, 2010 4:36 AM PST
In reply to: Let's see in March ...

So then, if I chose to move to a cabin in the wilderness without electricity or telephone service, would I have the "right" to internet access?

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See the plan to come.
by Kees Bakker / February 6, 2010 5:03 AM PST
In reply to: So then...

Or ask Ed, because he seems to know already what's in it.


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That didn't make any sense at all.
by EdHannigan / February 6, 2010 5:32 AM PST
In reply to: See the plan to come.

I made no such claim. Why say something so incredibly stupid?

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Ed already knew that access will be free for all.
by Kees Bakker / February 6, 2010 5:58 AM PST
In reply to: See the plan to come.

That's in his post #22: "that's obvious". Obvious to him, anyway. So I thought that maybe the answer to your question on cabins in wildernesses is obvious to him also. But from his answer I get the impression it isn't. Sometimes, I don't understand him as well as I would like. One of us must be incredibly stupid.


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Why ask Ed...
by J. Vega / February 6, 2010 11:33 AM PST
In reply to: See the plan to come.

Why ask Ed? You were the one who mentioned article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a possible bearing on the situation.

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by J. Vega / February 6, 2010 11:48 AM PST
In reply to: See the plan to come.

I asked about a cabin in the wilderness because of something you said, not Ed. You said "My interpretation at the moment is that it's a technical target: broadband cable or ADSL or WiFi or WiMax or 3G mobile to each house that has electricity, while the current-standard is just 56Kbs dial-up.". This would seem to present 2 groups of people, those people having electricity and a phone and those who don't. So, if access to high-speed is a "right", would your interpretation mean that only people with electricity and phones have that "right"?

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RE: Cabin
by JP Bill / February 6, 2010 12:09 PM PST
In reply to: See the plan to come.

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