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Widespread Internet Access a Human Right, U.N. Declares

In a remarkable and unprecedented move, the United Nations proclaimed that Internet access is a universal human right and that societies should ensure all citizens have access to high-speed Internet connections.

The report — issued in the wake of the web-savvy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa — states in no uncertain terms that Internet access is crucial for freedom in the modern world:

"[T]he Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies.

However, while noting the incredible fact that there are now more than 2 billion Internet users worldwide, the report says nations have a clear mandate to ensure that access grows even more widely."

"States should adopt effective and concrete policies and strategies — developed in consultation with individuals from all segments of society, including the private sector as well as relevant Government ministries — to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all."

Analysts at The Atlantic see an implicit warning in the report — get more expansive networks, or these goals of freedom will be hard to achieve: "Without the proper infrastructure, some nations simply can't engage the internet as the 'revolutionary' and 'interactive medium' it's proven itself to be."

The Communications Workers of America agrees with these sentiments and believes more robust broadband Internet infrastructure goes hand in hand with more robust societies.

Links:

United Nations report: Internet access is a human right (The Los Angeles Times)

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (United Nations)

The U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right (The Atlantic)

Category: E-Government & Civic Participation, Universality, Research Reports