Now, the United Nations has proclaimed that Internet access itself is a human right.
UN seal photo by Julian Rotela Rosow
Its author, Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue, wrote:
"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. Each State should thus develop a concrete and effective policy...to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all segments of population."
Beyond simply stating that the Internet is a good idea and access is to be prepared, the statement insists on member states prioritizing it due to it being a human right.
"(This report emphasizes) the unique and transformative nature of the Internet not only to enable individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, but also arange of other human rights, and to promote the progress of society as a whole."
So it is not, in itself, a human right. Rather, due to its importance in contemporary global society, it enables the realization of those rights - rights such as freedom of expression - and as such, must be maintained.
How this will play out with nations lacking in wealth and infrastructure is worth considering, especially in light of the rapporteur's definition of the Internet.
"(T)he Internet has two dimensions: access to online content, without any restrictions except in a few limited cases permitted under international human rights law; and the availability of the necessary infrastructure and information communication technologies, such as cables,modems, computers and software, to access the Internet in the first place."
My specialty, if I can be said to have one, is not international law. However, although this is not a binding document, so far as I know, the bully pulpit of the United Nations makes it impossible to ignore. Of course, many will ignore it, but it will now do so with a de facto admission of less than full membership in the family of nations.
And that is how it should be.