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The Internet saved us in the pandemic; let's make it a human right

Remember all the talk about the Internet as a human right?

Six years ago, the UN passed a non-binding resolution affirming the right to Internet access.

Back in 2010, Finland passed an actual law guaranteeing the right to Internet access. A handful of other countries have enacted similar, albeit less sweeping laws.

Access to connectivity might have once been about social justice, but now it is indispensable for daily life.  (Source: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo)
Access to connectivity might have once been about social justice, but now it is indispensable for daily life.
(Source: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo)

The topic has since fallen off the agenda, for whatever reason. But now the UN and the ITU have set out a road map toward achieving universal affordable connectivity by 2030.

There is already an implied right to Internet access in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which stipulates the right of equal access to work.

It's about time

OK, it's easy to dismiss the UN for coming up with lofty targets without knowing how to reach them.

But in 2022, we can accept that Internet for all is a worthy objective and, if not a right, then certainly an essential service. Access to connectivity might have once been about social justice, but now it is indispensable for daily life.

A number of COVID contract tracing schemes, for example, require registration via a government-sponsored app. Too bad for those who can't afford a smartphone.

As we head into the post-pandemic world, all of this is worth thinking about. If there's one thing that has kept the economy afloat and allowed some kind of social interaction in the past two years, it's been broadband internet.

But perhaps we are taking it for granted. It is odd that despite the clarifying experience of the pandemic, governments are not clamoring to move toward universal and affordable internet access.

Promises, promises

In that context, this election promise from the Australian Greens party to fund broadband access comes as a surprise. They're proposing to spend A$800 million ($571 million) to provide free broadband for 1 million low-income households.

"During the last two years of lockdowns, some families had to park outside the local library to access free internet so their kids could do their school work. That’s unacceptable," said party leader Adam Bandt.


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Light Reading.


"The pandemic has shown just how important the internet is. It’s critical connective infrastructure, and everyone deserves to be able to access it."

It may be a small political party making a promise it won't have to keep. And there may be more cost-effective ways of ensuring broadband for all.

But for those countries with near-ubiquitous high-speed broadband, the time has come to turn it into a service that is available for all.

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— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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