[IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the Internet.
Tue Dec 7 20:33:57 EET 2010
Thanks for a productive and engaged call just now...we had Meryem, Marianne, Shaila, Parminder, Mike, Abbe, Dixie and me.
In short, we decided to keep article 1 of the Charter on a right to access the Internet and to check the wording in the current draft 1.1. We also decided to move on to discuss whether we include an overarching "right to the Internet" in the preamble.
For those who want more detail, here are some notes from the call...apologies for the length. (please correct me if I have it wrong....I'm obviously paraphrasing/interpreting what I heard, and also trying to condense so email isn't too unwieldy, whilst also taking on board comments received by email)...
1) Should access be a separate article at the beginning of the Charter as in the draft of version 1.1?
We are all ok with the "right to access" or the "right to the internet" coming out as a separate article in the Charter and coming at the beginning. Most are very happy with this. Others would prefer for access not to be framed as a right and believe that it should sit within the preamble as a necessary precondition for the articles in the Charter. However, they said that they could live with it being a separate article (as in the current draft).
2) Should the wording be "right to access the Internet" or "right to the Internet"?
Most people on the call were in favour of referring to a "right to the Internet". Arguments:
- Through undertaking this exercise of defining a Charter, we are recognising that the Internet is a new communications paradigm. We're not just talking about the Internet as a tool; all people need to be able to participate in and benefit from this new paradigm. This is the "right to the Internet".
- The whole Charter is in effect defining this right, which includes physical and meaningful access and use, and also about what characteristics the Internet needs to have in order to make access meaningful (neutrality, quality etc).
- Some felt that referring to "access" will lead us into discussions about modalities of access, but these modalities will change over time as technology evolves. It was felt that we should be saying is that we have a right to a certain kind of Internet, regardless of the medium of access.
However, one participant felt very strongly that we shouldn't refer to the "right to the Internet" at all. Amongst other arguments, the point was made that it's not clear how we would be able to use such a right; what it would mean in practice, what defending the right to the Internet would mean in court.
We didn't reach agreement on this issue. However, we did broadly agree that the whole Charter is about a right to the Internet in some form. The issue is whether we make that explicit or implicit (some raised issues of tactics).
Because of this, I suggested that we leave the first article as a "right to access the Internet" for now, and to discuss whether we explicitly refer to a "right to the Internet" or not as part of our discussion on the preamble for the Charter. This was partly a compromise position. It was also partly because all rights and principles in the Charter make up a "right to the Internet", so it makes the structure of the Charter more consistent if it's not defined as a separate article in itself.
Drawing on our conversations so far, I think this means that our first article on the "access to the Internet" as referring to:
a) physical access/connection
b) meaningful and inclusive access (e.g. all people can use it effectively).
c) what that access actually looks like (architecture of the net that's necessary for fulfilling rights in the Charter).
The point was made that we need to unpack this issue of access a bit more. Some feel we should say that access should be affordable, whilst others say that we shouldn't refer to affordability because the right to access means that governments have an obligation to make sure that access is a reality for all. For some that will mean paying, for others it will mean free access. It was also suggested that we need to include inclusion of minority groups here (currently in a separate article 3 on non-discrimination).
So, please look at the current wording of Article 1 on access and see if you think it's adequate, bearing in mind that we'll also have an explanatory accompanying text that can go into depth on the issues. We need to keep the Charter itself as concise and to the point as possible.
We also need to move on to look at the two drafts of the preambles that we have and decide (a) which format we prefer, (b) whether we want to explicitly refer to a "right to the Internet" within the preamble and (c) whether we have the language and substance right in the draft. I suggest that Dixie sends another email out on the preamble with key points to consider, and that we have our next call on these issues. (We initially agreed to discuss the issue of limitations next, but I think it makes sense to look at the preamble now).
So, in summary, next steps:
1) Check the current wording on "access" in the Charter and send suggested edits through to the list. (in Dixie's notes from before here: http://www.freedomofexpression.org.uk/files/Conference_Call_2_Access_to_the_Internet1.pdf)
2) Look at the preamble in 1.1 and the new draft suggested by Meryem. Guidance on key points we need to discuss to follow from Dixie.
3) Meryem also made a slightly separate but related and relevant point about the current wording of the article on development in the Charter being out of sync with our approach. If you have any comments and suggestions like this, you can always feed them in via the email list on an ongoing basis.
I hope that sounds ok to everyone. As we said on the call, whilst we haven't solved all of the issues yet, I think we're making progress. Not least on understanding different people's view points and clarifying the thinking that's behind each article of the Charter. There may come a time when we'll have to agree to disagree on whether we include "right to the Internet" or not, but I'd urge us all to come to some kind of rough agreement if possible. If we can't agree, I hope people will all still stay engaged and active....the articles in the Charter and its spirit and goals are all critical, whether or not we frame them in a certain way. Whatever we agree on for version 1.1, I think it'll be invaluable to get input from outside of the coalition on the outstanding contentious issues once we release 1.1 in the new year.
Thanks again for everyone's participation - it's extremely exciting and rewarding to be engaged in such meaningful discussion on what should be, as a result, an authoritative and useful text.
All the best,
Head of Research & Policy? Global Partners and Associates
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Office: + 44 207 239 8251???? Mobile: +44 7867 795859
LisaH at global-partners.co.uk? www.global-partners.co.uk
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