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

Michael Gurstein gurstein
Wed Dec 8 19:58:27 EET 2010

Hi Lisa and all,
I'm easy as to modalities but to be clear if we want to talk about (for
The right to access the Internet includes:

a) Quality of service

b) Freedom of choice of system and software use

We need to be cognizant of the fact that QoS is quite different for mobile
than for stationary as is the issue of "freedom of choice of system"
etc.--BTW in an era increasingly dominated by mobile these questions become
rather more technical and commercial than perhaps was initiailly envisaged
when the document was drafted.

Re: "Right of access to the Internet" or "Right to the Internet"... I did
the same research as you Lisa (after I sent my note off) and had the same
questions about what I had written... Honestly I'm still not sure that the
folks drafting the legislation weren't technically naive as well (but I
could be corrected here... 

My suggestion is why not go to the source... I have indirect access to
Berners-Lee which might or might not get him to respond--perhaps others have
better access.  But I think we should be actively consulting with the W3
Consortium /Foundation http://www.w3.org /Berners Lee on these issues. I
think they will be sympathetic and they might be willing/interested to act
as a technology sounding board on these questions. (They are based in the UK
at Southhampton U.)

Re: your final point about concerns by various parties about a Right to the
Internet etc.etc.--doesn't the fact that various jurisdictions are already
engaged with this and others are thinking about it really give us license
not only to proceed but even to look to take a leading position? (not a
rhetorical question as I'm not familiar with the national or inter-agency
"politics" around these issues.




-----Original Message-----
From: Lisa Horner [mailto:LisaH at global-partners.co.uk] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 9:16 AM
To: 'Michael Gurstein'; 'parminder'
Cc: irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
Subject: RE: [IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the

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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