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50% believe broadband is a human right

Thursday, November 6th 2014 by Dean Reilly

50% of people think that broadband is a human right, a survey has shown.

The results of a poll on Cable.co.uk revealed that 50.48% agreed that it was a human right while 45.19% replied that it was not. The remaining 4.33% were unsure.

The poll, which asked the question “Do you think broadband is a human right?” had 208 respondents. It was launched as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced plans for free public wi-fi in 1,000 public buildings across the UK as part of the Super-Connected Cities scheme.

The results show that fewer members of the public believe that broadband access is a right when compared to telecoms industry figures. A similar survey conducted in October by the Broadband 100 group found that nearly three quarters of industry professionals felt that broadband access is a basic human right.

Finland became the first country in the world to make access to broadband a legal right, stating in 2010 that every citizen would have access to a 1Mbps broadband connection. The Finish government has since stated that the minimum speed for citizens in the country will rise to 100Mbps from 2015.

A subsequent paper presented to the United Nations General Assembly entitled the “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue” also made reference to the importance of open access to the internet.

The 2011 report said: “Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States.”

However, several notable figures have spoken out about how broadband access, although important, should not be classified in the same way as existing human rights.

Internet entrepreneur Vinton Grey Cerf, often referred to as the “father of the Internet”, told the New York Times that, “technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right.

“Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category.”

Supporting that point of view, Brian Schepis, a colleague of Mr Cerf at Google, wrote in the Journal of Politics and Law that, “there is a tendency for human rights inflation. In short, qualifying too many things as human rights contributes to a lack of force in human right claims.”

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which was first proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948, sets out “fundamental human rights to be universally protected”.

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