[IRP] On "right to access the Internet" versus "right to the internet"

parminder parminder
Mon Dec 6 18:34:10 EET 2010

Hi All

Apart from the fact that we can see that a (very) large number of people 
see right to Internet as a basic right (probably more than people, 
generally, saw education as a right, when it was instituted as a human 
right in 1948), and that mnay governments have already made moves in 
this direction, as I had argued earlier, this should follow from the 
very logic that we are framing a charter of rights on the Internet.

I am sure it is meaningless to specify a charter of rights on the 
Internet without starting from the 'right to the Internet'.

I have argued here earlier about the limitation of the term 'existing 
rights'  - remember how Frank too said at the HR event soem CS orgs 
organized in Vilnius  - that rights are always evolving and thus it is 
not useful to freeze them. In India if we speak about rights, a normally 
politically aware/ active person is likely to think of right to food, to 
livelihood etc  in which path-breaking work is taking place ....

In any case, even if we were to provisionally accept the usage of the 
term 'existing rights' when we try to apply to a new domain, there still 
have to be that overall unbreally right to that domain, which frames all 
other rights, that may merely be translations of existing rights to the 
new domain.

Let me make a somewhat asymmetrically illustration. i came across this 
document speaking of translating existing right in the LGBT space or for 
sexual minorities, as they re also known. We can speak about their right 
of association,  cultural expression etc etc, but all this comes only 
after we assert a more basic right to freedom of sexual orientation.

Similarly, if I do not have the 'right to the Internet' all other 
Internet rights are not only meaningless to me, but they are meaningless 
in themselves, as 'universal. rights.

It is not that we begin to write separate charters for rights as 
applying to all kinds of spaces - airports, sports arenas etc etc... If 
Internet as a new space or domain is considered important enough to 
write a new charter of rights, then a right to that domain/ space is a 
prior right. For me it almost goes logically, though my argument is 
principally political.

I think, the charter must begin with a 'right to the Internet',

and then, as is per the present sceheme of the document under 
consideration, it should explicate this right, first in general terms

in negative terms, that this right may not be curtailed unless....

but also in positive terms (which is not present at present) mentioning 
something to the effect that - access to a basic level of open Internet 
must be provided to all

then we can describe the right to the internet in 4 ways (as at present)


freedom of choice of systems, application (pl add this) and software - 
also add open standards here apart from mentioning interoperability

Digital exclusion -

Network neutrality (i think it shd stay here, and not in FoE part, NN 
ensures much more than FoE, it ensures a host of social, cultural, 
economic and political rights). I think right to waht kind of Internet, 
is an important part of right to the Internet, because some kind of 
Internet (compromised vis a vis NN quality) is in any case something 
interested dominant parties will be ready to provide to almost everyone 
-- the issue is that this doesnot fulfill the obligation to ensuring the 
'right to the Internet' - it shd be an NN Internet, that all should be 
able to access.

Thought I will throw in some ideas that cna be discussed in the cof call 


On Wednesday 01 December 2010 03:28 PM, Lisa Horner wrote:
> Hi Mike
> Yes, I see that completely.  Things have changed in terms of law/formal standards over the past few years since I first started thinking about these issues which is great... and if we can help to push up standards we should.  However, we have to be careful to clearly distinguish between fundamental human rights and legal rights being defined at a national level.  I just tend to be quite conservative in my approach with this particular issue (a) because I think that access is already included in the firmly established human right to expression and that we can get further arguing in those terms, and (b) because the "traditional" human rights community who could/should be huge allies with this always argue strongly against the creation of "new" rights (as we've already experienced from the comments we received on 1.0).
> Also, on a format/consistency point, access will be the only new right that we establish in the Charter, as we've opted for the approach of saying that everything in the Charter derives from human rights standards contained in the UDHR.
> However, I get the sense that people in the coalition generally want to see access to infrastructure/connectivity framed as a right, which is fine (as long as we can clearly explain why, and how it fits in with the approach we're taking). We've heard quite strong views from people on this issue in previous discussions, especially from Parminder and Meryem, which is great. We thought we'd revisit the issue to try and get a few more opinions on the table so we can make a decision for draft 1.1.  So if anyone has any thoughts, please do air them!
> Also, I hope that those who are more concerned with stressing access to knowledge over the Internet rather than access to infrastructure feel that this is adequately covered in other articles of the Charter relating to expression, knowledge and culture.
> All the best,
> Lisa
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael Gurstein [mailto:gurstein at gmail.com]
> Sent: 01 December 2010 01:52
> To: Lisa Horner; 'Slim Amamou'; irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
> Subject: RE: [IRP] On "right to access the Internet" versus "right tothe internet"
> Hi Lisa,
> I'm not sure of your reasons for the below...
> It should be noted that a number of countries have now in one form or
> another begun to acknowledge access to the Internet as a "right" (Costa Rica
> (constitution), Finland (constitution), Sweden (ministerial statement),
> probably others and so on... Support through the Charter would be
> "progressive" certainly in some contexts but most definitely not an outlier.
> Mike
> -----Original Message-----
> From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
> [mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of Lisa
> Horner
> Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 10:45 AM
> To: 'Slim Amamou'; irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
> Subject: Re: [IRP] On "right to access the Internet" versus "right tothe
> internet"
> Hi Slim
> ....
> A separate point to contribute to the discussion.... My personal opinion on
> whether we should frame access as a right or not is that we shouldn't at
> this stage.  I think it should be a separate article at the beginning of the
> Charter called "access", but the wording shouldn't refer to it as a right.
> Rather something like "all people should have access to the Internet as it
> is necessary to realize a number of human rights".  That's mainly because
> our goals are to apply existing standards to the Internet.  However, we've
> also said that we'll be progressive and forward looking in our
> interpretations, and I've been swayed by a lot of the arguments arguing for
> rights language recently.  It'd be good to hear as many people's thoughts on
> this as possible!
> Again - welcome to the list Slim...I hope you'll continue to discuss.
> All the best,
> Lisa
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