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

Michael Gurstein gurstein
Thu Dec 9 03:01:00 EET 2010

Thanks for the clarity of your argument below.
(I'll leave aside the "technical" issues of "access to" for the moment--but
I would reiterate my suggestion to attempt to engage with the W3C folks
around this 
If I believed that what you are saying/anticipating was correct i.e. that it
would be easier to sell a "Right to Access the Internet" than it would be to
sell a "Right to the Internet" I would have no problem accepting that
position for the reasons that you mention and for Lisa's argument that the
difference between the two positions is not sufficient to delay the process
further. However, I don't/haven't seen any evidence one way or the other.  
Three (?) years ago when the first of the "legal" positions on "Right to
(access) the Internet" began to appear I'm sure we all would have understood
that presenting such a position was outrageously (and even irresponsibly)
adventurist (I know, as I made that argument on the Governance list and it
was firmly rejected...
But then countries started to both legislate the matter and to recognize
with their actions the necessity of such a position, starting with "access"
because "access" was how the major arguments were being phrased (viz. the
Digital Divide).  
Now we are 3 years on and the tide continues to come in (except in a few
countries such as the US and my own Canada where either commercial or
ideological interests are currently holding sway...
Whether we should or need to pander to these, dare I say antique positions
or to go with the more advanced ones is I guess a matter of taste if not of
strategy... My preference would be to go with the advanced ones at the start
and if necessary make a strategic retreat as might be required. 

-----Original Message-----
From: shaila mistry [mailto:shailam at yahoo.com] 
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 12:51 PM
To: Lisa Horner; Michael Gurstein; parminder; Meryem Marzouki
Cc: irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org
Subject: Re: [IRP] Outcomes of call on right to access/right to the

Hi everyone
I guess we are all wrestling with the framing of this and trying to produce
an outcome that works for the Charter and ourselves and,  most importantly
the international community, whose support we are seeking. Basically we want
this to fly with civil society, private sector and governments and
ourselves.  It was very useful hearing the different perspectives yesterday.
However I am not clear why this has become something of a tangle.

As to the "right to the internet" versus the "right to access to internet"
In response to some prior discussants , I would say that the difference is
the implicit message that the charter acknowledges that the right to
internet is implicit. The Charter exists because of this right and we are
upholding it. Now do we push this any further into a heralding statement at
the top of the rights ? I am not so sure, because like others I am concerned
that we may lose the support of the very entities that we seek. 

This right if  taken out of context and we say aloud " everyone has a right
to the internet" may become less missive when compared with other more
important rights of freedom, food and shelter and education.  We as the
community who have come together as "internet community" understand the
differences between these two rights. But I suspect that when we send this
out to the real world at large we will have, and we should have,  folks from
all walks of like looking at it and ask the question " Is right to internet
really a right" or " who is responsible for providing this right" .I am not
sure that we will like the responses that we will hear.  We don't want to
lose the support of entities who might otherwise see our charter as a
pioneering effort.

On the other hand, If we start with the "access " element as the pivotal
statement then we have better chance of support, if only because everyone
who has access internet will see this as valid and those that don't, will
naturally support it. Using the word access, helps us define all the
variables that were already discussed such as special groups, and
populations that do not have access because of affordability or "politics'
and also covers parts of the world that have restrictions. even covers the
technical exclusions and monopoly issues. We can frame the wording is such a
way that we don't lose support and or create undue burden of responsibility.

Notwithstanding our extensive discussions, this charter is about increasing
the rights of people.To this purpose we need the buy-in of entities so that
we can advance human rights. When we send out the 1.1 versions its
practicability, implementation and  application of the charter will become
the deciding factors for most individuals and entities whose support we are

Shaila Rao Misty


Life is too short ....challenge the rules
Forgive quickly ... love truly ...and tenderly
Laugh constantly.....and never stop dreaming! 


From: Lisa Horner <LisaH at global-partners.co.uk>
To: Michael Gurstein <gurstein at gmail.com>; parminder
<parminder at itforchange.net>
Cc: "irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org"
<irp at lists.internetrightsandprinciples.org>
Sent: Wed, December 8, 2010 9:15:46 AM
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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