[IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the Internet.

Michael Gurstein gurstein
Wed Dec 8 18:11:06 EET 2010

I agree with Parminder's point below but I have a few other comments on both
Lisa's excellent summary and the text...
1. Meryem (?)'s concerns with regards to the enforceabillity matters
surrounding a "right to the Internet"... My understanding is that Finland,
Costa Rica, Ecuador and Spain (and perhaps others) have legislation
concerning something related to a "right to the Internet/Broadband" and in
some cases it is an element of the cosntitution.  This suggests that if
there isn't already there soon will be case law coming from those countries
with respect to the "right to the Internet" and the issues of enforceability
etc.etc. surrounding these.  Also, expect to see a lot of case law and
discussion as various countries (France?) make further attempts to enforce 3
strikes laws around IP issues and permanent banning from the Internet.
2. "the Internet" is a set of protocols (rules) governing the
interconnection and management of data streams... built on those data
streams are methods (software) of managing and interpreting that data in
various kinds of visual (graphic--www) and non-graphic ways (.txt),  The
meaning/interpretation we assign to that interpreted data is based on human
cognition.  What precisely we "access" when we "access the Internet" is
completely subject to intepretation and where we individually assign meaning
and value. My guess is that anyone with any technical grasp (or interest)
with respect to the Internet will snort at the (technically meaningless)
terminology of "right to access the Internet" (think US Senator Stevens and
the Internet as "pipes") and be confused but rather more tolerant of the
(ambiguous) terminology of "right to the Internet". (But not being a
technology guy myself it might be a good idea to run this by someone with a
lot more technology understanding than myself who also has some knowledge
and sensitivity in the HR area.
3. I mentioned this some time ago and things have gotten rather acute in the
interim... the section in the document seems extremely dated since there is
no mention of or accommodation to Internet access via mobiles (which soon
will if not already be the majority means of access globally)... I'm not
exactly sure how to handle that but I would be willing to make a stab over
the next few days if I could have someone to work with who has a better
grasp of the intricacies of HR language and modalities than I do.

-----Original Message-----
From: irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciple  s.org
[mailto:irp-bounces at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org] On Behalf Of
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 6:17 AM
To: Lisa Horner
Cc: irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
Subject: Re: [IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the

Thanks Lisa for this rather detailed summary.

I do hope we are able to frame an explicit right to the Internet in the
preamble as the enabling and necessary condition (and thus right) for all
other rights in the charter.

As for commenting on existing language in 1.1 on right to access the
Internet, I find the following part making it look that the right to access
the Internet is basically a negative right, when the preceding text, as well
as the following one really does not seem to mean it this way.

"The right to access the Internet shall not be subject to any restrictions
except those which are
provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order,
public health or morals or
the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the other rights
recognized in the present

I prefer that it is slightly amended to balance the negative rights and
positive rights aspects, as follows

"The right to access the Internet shall be ensured for all, and it shall not
be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are
necessary to protect national security, public order, public health or
morals or the rights and freedoms of others, and are consistent with the
other rights recognized in the present Charter."

I will give a more detailed look to the text sometime later. Thanks to all.

Lisa Horner wrote: 

Hi all

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

2) Should the wording be "right to access the Internet" or "right to the

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

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

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:

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,



Lisa Horner

Head of Research & Policy  Global Partners and Associates

338 City Road, London, EC1V 2PY, UK

Office: + 44 207 239 8251     Mobile: +44 7867 795859

LisaH at global-partners.co.uk  www.global-partners.co.uk 


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