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

Lisa Horner LisaH
Wed Dec 8 19:15:46 EET 2010

Thanks for getting back, Parminder and Mike.  I agree with Parminder's suggestion for changing the language of 1.1.  I also agree with the point about mobiles as we discussed before but didn't work out how to do.  We could add it in here (the draft was supposed to be as technology neutral as possible, but seeing as we're talking about the Internet, it's already not) - thanks for offering to have a stab Mike. Or we could have a bit more of a think about how to go about it properly throughout the doc once we've released 1.1 and have more time.  What do people think?

I just did some quick and dirty research on the new rights in the countries you mentioned.  From what I can see, they are all "right to access", rather than "right to", but it would be useful to hear from people in those countries on the exact wording.  We also need to be careful to be clear on human rights and legal rights.
Costa Rica: A fundamental right to access the Internet.
Ecuador: A constitutional right to access ICTs.
Finland: A legal right as part of universal service obligations to have access to 1mb broadband at an affordable price.
Spain: A legal right to be able to buy 1 mb broadband at a fixed price.

Mike - I was just wondering if you could flesh out your point 2 below a bit more please as I'm not sure I understand it at the moment....
I understand that "access" might be ambiguous and could mean different things.  But I don't understand why the even more ambiguous term "right to the internet" is preferable, if just because it's more ambiguous?  I think we should be as clear as we can with our language and avoid ambiguity, or at least understand/explain why we have to be ambiguous in some instances.

For me, I had a clearer idea about what we mean when we're talking about a "right to the Internet" following our call yesterday.  Namely, an umbrella right that encompasses a range of other rights including physical access, usability, characteristics of the Internet and freedoms of use of the Internet.  As it would be an umbrella right, and the whole Charter is effectively fleshing out what that right encompasses, it wouldn't be sufficient to put it as the title to the first article in the Charter, which is only talking about physical access, useability/accessibility and architecture.  Which is why I suggested it should go in the preamble, of we decide to include it.

But I think you're suggesting here a slightly different conception of "right to the Internet" that still focuses on access, usability and architecture rather than also freedoms and uses on the net?  Or I could be misunderstanding here...sorry!

A quick aside - I have really serious concerns about including a right to the Internet at this stage, or at least making it a central component of the Charter.  Our objectives are to apply existing international standards to the Internet as progressively as possible, and declaring a right to the Internet goes beyond that.  I don't think it's a strategic thing to do at this stage if we want to build allies in the international human rights legal and advocacy community, amongst quite a large number of governments and in the private sector.  We've already had harsh criticism on these fronts, and I really don't want us to fall at the first hurdle - dismissed as being not credible - when what we have in our Charter is so important and has the potential to build a strong and broad alliance between human rights defenders.  That's not to say I don't understand the arguments for including it...I feel I understand a lot more than I did before thanks to the discussions we've been having.  But at the moment we're quite a small and unrepresentative group....I feel we're at the cusp of changing that and are doing something incredibly useful and important here, but really don't want us to shoot ourselves in the foot at this stage.

But we also shouldn't forget that we have an external consultation that we can make use of to gauge wider opinion on this.  My gut feeling is that we should err on the side of caution for now, but actually ask those people that we're trying to reach out to...both the relatively more powerful and relatively more powerless/voiceless if at all possible.

Anyway, let's continue to discuss over this week in the context of finalising the preamble, and see where we get to.  There are such strong feelings on this issue within our group, that we may have to formalise our decision making procedures a bit more to make a final decision on this.

Thanks again,

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