July 18th, 2010

forums, me, non blog

[FORUM] Do you think that broadband Internet access is a human right?

I raised the news that a Finnish court deemed broadband Internet a basic human right with Andrew, as an oddity more than anything else, when we were nearing the corner of Parliament and Gerrard a couple of weeks ago. On later reflection, he wrote at Acts of Minor Treason that the court likely had a point.

Limiting the scope of fundamental human rights to the things that are biologically required for survival isn't magnanimous. It's the ground state, the absolute lowest that things should go. We built civilizations to go beyond that. Sure, there are those who would argue that internet access is a luxury, that it's not necessary to live one's life - but then liberty, justice, free speech, and all that aren't strictly necessary either. People don't die in dictatorships because they can't say what they want, though people frequently do because they say it regardless. We've long since established the precedent that social inventions are equally valid human rights.

Besides, internet access is becoming more and more necessary to day-to-day life, in its capacity as a means to connect individuals and communities. If you think it's a frippery, how willing would you be to try living without electricity? Our ancestors managed just fine without it for hundreds of thousands of years, but look at the nature of their lives. The internet, in addition to being the sine qua non for ninja cat videos, is in my opinion a revolution on the order of writing. Throughout human history, the societies that have advanced are those that were open and those that communicated widely. The internet enables that to a greater degree than anything we've ever done before.

Specifying broadband, too, is also important, inasmuch as dialup limits the Internet's functionality. I remember how, after I disconnected this very desktop from my old dialup Internet connection back when I lived on Prince Edward Island in August 2003, how very different and more capable the Internet seemed when I hooked up up to the Queen's University broadband Internet in September 2003. It's not quite as bad as being limited to a 1980s-vintage BBS, but does it have to be?

What do you think?