[IRP] On "right to access the Internet" versus "right to the internet"

Lisa Horner LisaH
Tue Nov 30 20:44:35 EET 2010

Hi Slim

Welcome to the list and thanks for your comments- it's great to have your participation.  Unfortunately our web archive of the list is out of date as it's linked to our old email address (is that where you were looking?).  We're trying to fix it at the moment.  There has been quite a bit of discussion about access on the list, but primarily related to whether it should be classed a right or not, given the Charter's mission to apply international human rights standards to the Internet.  You can see a compilation of the discussions so far by clicking on "comments 2, IGF and afterwards" at the following link: http://www.freedomofexpression.org.uk/resources/irp+charter+of+human+rights+and+principles+for+the+internet

Your point about linking to a specific technology is very valid.  We've had some discussion in the past about whether the Charter should be for digital communications more generally (ie be technology neutral), or aimed specifically at the Internet. People generally felt we should stick with the Internet.  Following this, it seems that we have to say that all people have access to the Internet as everything else in the Charter is meaningless without it, including rights to access knowledge over the Internet. I think it's implied that this applies to any technologies that can be used to access the Internet (now and in the future), but maybe we should spell that out a bit more?  I personally worry that "right to the Internet" is a bit too vague...we'd need to be clear on what exactly we mean if we use it.

I think your point that Neutrality is a separate issue to access is a good one.  Maybe it sits better under freedom of expression (which as defined in international standards encompasses access to knowledge).  Then we could keep the article on access specifically related to access to infrastructure rather than access to the knowledge that flows over it.

Would be good to hear everyone's thoughts on all of this. We're having a conference call next Monday 6th Dec to try and reach a decision (at least for this draft) - I hope you can join us.

A separate point to contribute to the discussion.... My personal opinion on whether we should frame access as a right or not is that we shouldn't at this stage.  I think it should be a separate article at the beginning of the Charter called "access", but the wording shouldn?t refer to it as a right.  Rather something like "all people should have access to the Internet as it is necessary to realize a number of human rights".  That's mainly because our goals are to apply existing standards to the Internet.  However, we've also said that we'll be progressive and forward looking in our interpretations, and I've been swayed by a lot of the arguments arguing for rights language recently.  It'd be good to hear as many people's thoughts on this as possible!

Again - welcome to the list Slim...I hope you'll continue to discuss.

All the best,


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