Is the Internet “not a necessity or human right”?

07 July 2015 Internet, IT & e-Discovery Blog Blog
Authors: Peter Vogel

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly (Federal Communication Commission – FCC) has been criticized for “commingling of the words “necessity” and “basic human right.””  Infoworld’s recent article “Do we really need the Internet?” about the June 25, 2015 speech of FCC Commissioner O’Rielly to the Internet Innovation Alliance entitled “What is the Appropriate Role for Regulators in an Expanding Broadband Economy?” included the following comments:

Those two statements are not necessarily synonyms. Do we need the Internet like we need air, water, food, and shelter? No, of course not. Assuming that we have those four elements, do we need the Internet to exist and thrive in the United States of America? Yes, we do.

Here are Commissioner O’Rielly’s comments about the 4th point of whether “Internet access is not a necessity or basic human right”:

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.  I am not in any way trying to diminish the significance of the Internet in our daily lives.  I recognized earlier how important it may be for individuals and society as a whole. But, people do a disservice by overstating its relevancy or stature in people’s lives.  People can and do live without Internet access, and many lead very successful lives. Instead, the term “necessity” should be reserved to those items that humans cannot live without, such as food, shelter, and water.

It is even more ludicrous to compare Internet access to a basic human right. In fact, it is quite demeaning to do so in my opinion.  Human rights are standards of behavior that are inherent in every human being.  They are the core principles underpinning human interaction in society.  These include liberty, due process or justice, and freedom of religious beliefs.  I find little sympathy with efforts to try to equate Internet access with these higher, fundamental concepts.

Commissioner O’Rielly included these 5 points regarding the need for all citizens to have Internet access:

  1. The Internet cannot be stopped
  2. Understand how the Internet economy works
  3. Follow the law; don’t make it up
  4. Internet access is not a necessity or basic human right
  5. The benefits of regulation must outweigh the burdens

Stay tuned because this debate about the Internet availability to all citizens is long from over!

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