Does Internet access rise to the level of a human right?

Social networks have played a major role in the so-called Arab Spring. In light of that, leaders at the G8 Summit in France are being urged to view Internet access as a basic human right. Today’s Question: Does Internet access rise to the level of a human right?

  • Mikrozero

    Hell no. seriously?

  • In short: yes!

    Internet access should be a basic human right, subsidized and standardized, taken out of the profit-worshipping hands of corporations who DO NOT have the people’s best interest at heart.

    Municipal wireless internet providers cut costs and distribute freedom to the people. No wonder American corporations fight and lobby against them every single day.

    It makes me sad to think that American infrastructure for high-speed internet and internet over cellphones is so dismally poor; this is where we’re becoming a Third World country.

  • Zach

    Spending public money on whizzy new networks appeals to technophiles, but the benefits are not clear for others.

  • Rich

    No. It is a want and not a need.

    Is it a human right to have access to magazines, newspapers, television, radio or other forms of media? I think not….

  • Rich

    As an afterthought There is always the library that has many forms of media available to those with the motivation to ask for a (no cost) library card. It may not be as sexy as sitting in the comfort of your residence, but it does promote access.

  • Larry M.

    The internet and networking devices are a powerful tools, that may accelerate the ability to organize and express the human condition, do research (study), hunt for a job and yes shop. Access to the net and computing in a society that has become so dependent on it seems a matter of fairness, especially for students. I know the idea of a tax supported computer and internet access for every home is not likely. However, internet and computer access through libraries, community centers and the job core should be a priority for every community and be supported by tax dollars.

  • John

    The internet is the ONLY source of open and free information. News media companies are owned by people who can control the dissemination and propagation (propaganda) of the information they wish their customers to consume.

    The first amendment to the constitution states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The internet is the only platform of free speech left in this country. All other media is controlled.

  • Mikey

    Are you kidding me?

    Let me guess… many of you have never even seen the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, have ya?

  • Alison

    No! It can be an important tool in economic development, but a ‘human right’? High speed internet access is certainly something someone could live without.

  • John O.

    No, internet access is not a basic human right. It is a service. As a young lad in the 1960’s, we still had telephone “party lines” in some of the more rural areas where I grew up. As the costs dropped and technology improved, those disappeared in favor of “private” lines. The advent of the internet has also changed how we communicate.

    In an earlier time, most of us relied on a telephone land line to connect to the net because a high-speed connection was prohibitively expensive, or it simply was not available. Since the cost of accessing the net has dropped and the connection speeds have increased substantially, the number of folks connecting to the net via a land line has dropped significantly.

    For those with limited resources in today’s world, even “disposable” cell phones can provide some accessibility and there certainly are libraries and other locations where the internet can be accessed.

  • kaydi

    Internet, transportation, education, health care; are all these “rights” of an American? Rights of human beings? Ask your grandparents or great-grandparents if they are still around. Most of them will say that these are privileges that have been earned. If someone has to pay for it, another should not HAVE TO get it for free. As a public school worker, I have seen how the “right” to an education instead of the privilege of an education has been a HUGE problem in attitudes and actions of students and parents alike. Adding internet access as a right will do the same thing. I agree with the statement, GO TO THE LIBRARY.

  • J

    Notice that the question said “Human” right not “Constitutional” right Mikey…

    Anyway, sadly internet access is needed for so many things these days that it is becoming a “human right.”

    But, at least there are libraries one can use … oh wait those will probably close for budget cuts … maybe the Vikings will put free public internet access into “Ramsey County Taxpayers” stadium.

  • Alan

    Really…this is probably the most ridiculous question I’ve seen on here. The fact that it is even on here shows what a spoiled society we have become and why folks with two cars, cable, internet, cell phones and dinners out three times a week are crying about how they are being “sqeezed.”

  • Philip


  • There’s a reason why freedom of the press exists and has been historically protected. Now the press is on the internet. It’s a media platform. In a just society all citizens have access to public information. In that sense it’s fair and reasonable to accommodate and facilitate internet access for everyone.

  • Clark

    NO. Is this another so called right the freeloaders are demanding so they can confiscate more of my income? Likely another demand of the lefties. How about the word responsibility to earn Internet access. Exactly why I have never and will never vote for radical left democrat. What a bunch of losers!

  • garyf

    A “right”? Really? or an entitlement? Something we have subsidize?

    The control of the exchange of ideas is always a goal of a totalitarian state. Even look at our current regime, they have even tried to get government control over ideas with the Fairness Doctrine for radio and TV stations.

    “The scariest people in the world are free people who hate freedom.” Kane Robinson

  • garyf

    A “right”? Really? or an entitlement? Something we have subsidize?

    The control of the exchange of ideas is always a goal of a totalitarian state. Even look at our current regime, they have even tried to get government control over ideas with the Fairness Doctrine for radio and TV stations.

    “The scariest people in the world are free people who hate freedom.” Kane Robinson

  • Mick J

    I feel like there are two types of people in this discussion – those who try to fit the internet into their existing, 20th century ideas of media, and those who realize that the internet is unique in human history. It’s not like newspapers, it’s not like a phone line, it’s not like television or radio, and it’s not like any other form of communication humans have ever had.

    The internet is still in its infancy, so people can be forgiven for thinking it’s only good for cat videos and convenience shopping. It’s much more than that. It’s an equalizer. It’s a tool. It’s a weapon against tyranny. What was the first thing Egypt tried to do to stop their uprising? Shut down the internet. It is the future of Democracy. Indeed, democracy in the future is not possible without the internet. That’s why it is a human right.

  • Carla

    It is our generation’s Guttenberg Press, the world’s public library, and everyone deserves a card. Democracy cannot topple tyranny until everyone is educated.

  • Kevin Sitter

    I agree with the premise but not the means. The essential freedom is Freedom of Speech, manifested in all its modes. We are too talented to rely on internet for the rest of time. From the beginning, Freedom of Speech is what is necessary and has been the foundation of building civil societies.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Our Constitution includes a “right” to keep and bear arms, but we don’t provide free weapons to those who can’t afford to buy them. Access to information and communication technologies, it seems to me, should be as much of a “right” as guns are.

    Is internet access a right such that those without it may demand that it be provided at no cost to them? We don’t even do that with food, sanitation, or medical care, so why should it be the case for something relatively less important to human well-being?

    Is internet access something the government should keep its nose out of, with the probable result that those who have it will be able to take further unfair advantage of those who do not? Or does the government have a role in leveling the playing field (as we do with public education) so the poor have opportunities that would otherwise be denied? I think it’s good that it be available at public libraries.

    And to further keep things in perspective, remember that the spur for this question is not the rights of individual Americans (already greatly privileged by world standards), but the fact that social networks are proving instrumental in the struggle for political freedom, as for instance in Egypt.

  • Yes. With technology, other resources (like water access) becomes more accessible–without communication, repression and oppression go unchecked. If governments can enjoy Internet access, so should those they serve.

  • Christopher Spiritstone

    access to the internet can be hugely beneficial and powerful but its hardly a “basic human right” in my view. Even having electric lights aren’t a human right, but food water, freedom of thought, freedom of expression and things like that are. They are not only important but fundamentally essential, and help to define us as human. With or without the Internet a person can still be a fully whole person. Human rights are, the things that when taken away makes us less able to be fully human.

  • Kirk

    It does not rise to the level of a human right, until denial to it is used as a method to deprive people of other true, and basic human rights -as we recently saw. THEN, it IS a human right.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Internet access should be a basic human right, subsidized and standardized, taken out of the profit-worshipping hands of corporations who DO NOT have the people’s best interest at heart.”


    “Is this another so called right the freeloaders are demanding so they can confiscate more of my income? Likely another demand of the lefties.”

    It’s ideological bullshit from like that from both sides that keeps us from having meaningful discussions.

  • Chris

    I think this whole international debate is shameful. Due to the geopolitical situation, the western governments are trying to sway public opinion in the Arab world by saying that internet access is a human right because the internet was the primary tool that they used. There is a large portion of this world that doesn’t access to a computer much less the internet. In fact, they don’t have access to clean water, sufficient food, healthcare facilities, many other things that are essential for life. If we would spend as much time concentrating on providing these services, the world would be a better place.

  • Aaron

    Are you serious?  A basic human right?  Do we consider stone tablets and chisels a basic human right, printing presses, telegraph machines, telephones…???


    The internet is a communication vehicle, a tremendously important one and something that people should be able to have access to.  But “a basic human right”, I don’t think so.


    Listening on the broadcast…  you seem to think that free speech is an advocate for the internet being a basic human right…  Free speech is a concept that can be realized through a variety of medium (some examples above).  One of those medium does not equate to a basic human right.


  • RobRamer

    A more interesting question is how can we maintain the right to free and open information on the internet. Already Google news searches edit out news that doesn’t fit your profile. This is done to “personalize” your viewing but the impact is that news is restricted to what makes you personally feel good. One result is that we don’t get information that presents us with contradictory views to ours and thus increases the trend towards a divided populace.

    For more information on this see Eli Pariser’s book and recent TED talk.

  • Timothy

    Should the availability of a free internet be a human right in the same sense that availability of a free press is? In the sense that if I have the means and capacity to start a newspaper or build an internet site, neither the government nor other agents of the press should be able to tell me that I can’t or tell me what I can/cannot say? I think in that sense it should be. If the question is “Should broadband internet be available for free in everyone’s home?”, that is a quite different question.

  • Vickie Cyr

    The question is actually trivial.

    We cannot ensure access to adequate food, shelter, potable water, clean air to millions of people in this world – how can we possibly consider Internet access a “human right?”

  • Stephanie A. M. Olson

    As a rural resident, Internet access is a real struggle. I see it as a real sign of urban privelage that so many people see it as a luxury– probably some of the same people who visit dial-up only Internet cafes features on NPR earlier this year. Lack of access is a real disconnect from the world, and dial-up (my only access) is not “meditative” as mentioned in that broadcast. Thanks.

  • Mick J

    @Vickie Cyr

    Just because we’re bad at providing human rights doesn’t mean we can’t define the term upwards. I see your point, and at this point in history, not everyone has the basic set of human rights. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that internet access should be available to everyone.

  • Curt

    Having access to a free and open internet is, in this digital age, a legitimate right, as is a free press. We are indeed citizens of the world, and the internet is our access to that world. Should everyone have high speed internet access in their home? That’s a different question. I’m saying that access is what’s important, not necessarily access in each individual home.

  • Bob

    Free porn for all.

  • Julia

    Unemployment benefits, Section 8 vouchers and many many job applications are only available online, and if the trend continues this way, I believe that access is a right.

    Even if it is possible to get a high speed connection to every home, it isn’t necessarily feasible for every family to afford a computer and the monthly connection fee they would need to access the internet where they live. I am a librarian, and I help people, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to, access the internet on a daily basis.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Any share-able, concrete human knowledge can be found on the internet. It would logically follow that if education is considered a human right, so too should be internet access.

  • rose

    Absolutely not a human right.

    Access to the internet has demonstrated both beneficial and harmful outcomes. Given the level of social maturity that humans have shown to date, social media for the masses has shown be a mechanism to lead followers. Those who have the capacity and ambition to lead use other vehicles to develop their leadership and use social media as a manipulative resource. for the weak minded.

    Get rid of the noise on social media and raise it to another level. The internet has provided the opportunity however our human maturity and the social will is not there yet.

  • Craig

    Freedom of speech through any media, across borders, is already in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The push to reiterate that is a rhetorical jab at regimes we would like to weaken. In fact, they usually say “unrestricted” access to the internet, to target China’s leadership as well.

    Ironically, our own congress has debated the so called “Kill Switch” bill a few times, which would allow the government to shut down portions of the internet in the case of a cyber-emergency.

  • CF

    First, let’s define what a “human right” is and what entity should be in place to ensure the establishment and preservation of the human right.

    Some opponents of single-payer health or “Obama Care” would say that health care is not a “right”. And certainly a right to Internet access would be argued against in similar terms.

    No, I don’t think Internet (or health care for that matter) should be a “right”. Bearing in mind what Jefferson said, “a government big enough to give you everything is a government big enough to take away everything”.

    However there are systems in society we develop that soon become too large and too expensive for any one individual to afford but everyone uses. Especially healthcare. So we have what is called infrastructure. Roads and bridges. Police and fire. Airports and harbors. All of which the collective of tax paying members of a society, by way of the government, should provide the framework for infrastructure. But not be the provider of what that infrastructure delivers.

    So as for Internet, the government should build a nationwide hi-speed fiber-optic network and then allow the private sector to use it. To pay for this network would be no different than paying tolls, gas tax, license & tab fees to pay for roads.

  • Bruce

    If businesses and corporations are living entinties then the internet can be a human right

  • Faith

    No. Not a human right, like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But not something that should be left in the control of corporations either.

  • David Rogde

    YES. The internet is now a fundamental element of commerce, business, government, etc.

    It’s nearly impossible to find a job without access. It’s difficult to conduct banking without access, and the list goes on and on.

    To not have access is to be disenfranchised from society both socially and economically.

  • Ryan F

    Yes–on the condition that you’re talking about an uncensored, unfiltered internet connection.

    However, if the government is going to censor the internet and then claim “everyone must be connected (because it is a ‘human right’),” that will become the equivalent of brainwashing–considering that future user interfaces will use contact lenses that will project into your eyes even with your eyelids closed.


  • Anna

    Yes and No- in that internet access is such an important element of fulfilling other human rights such as the right to work, the right to health care and the right to education that it is invaluable. Without internet access it is extremely difficult to get a job, got to school and live a “normal” life in this country. On the other hand I do not think that having unlimited access to internet for entertainment purposes should be considered a human right. I think it would be in our country’s best interest if internet access were free to all financially and in regards to censorship, but I do not see that happening in the near future.

  • Tom

    To the question – absolutely not. The shear absurdity of the question is an apt description of how far left MN Public Radio has dropped.

  • Dan

    No, I wouldn’t say it is a human right in the sense that governments must ensure that all people have internet access.

    But, just because internet access isn’t a human right doesn’t mean restricting access is a government’s right.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “The shear absurdity of the question is an apt description of how far left MN Public Radio has dropped.”

    Somebody’s leftism detector is a notch or two too sensitive, if the mere asking of a question gets one labeled a leftist. The way it’s phrased, it could just as well be interpreted as a snide rhetorical question meant to belittle anyone who thinks the answer is yes. (Imagine Rush Limbaugh asking it with a sneer in his voice.) That’s the trouble: when you view the world through a distorting lens of an ideology, you see what you expect to see, instead of what’s there.

    All ideology is bullshit.

  • Kevin VC

    When the “basics in life” are Dependant on internet access…. it comes close.

    For those who have not TRIED to apply anywhere these days you learn quickly you can only do it online. That includes McDonalds, Target, Best Buy, and pretty much any major and semi major employer…

    Many of the governement services are online, and bills, plus many many things we use to do only through the mail or over the phone.

    At present all of these items STILL have or present a way for those without internet access to fulfill the needs. McDonalds and others have terminals to do the applications…. But not all of them offer this.

    It is getting VERY close being a requirement to even live.

    Human right?

    Well it should be a right to be ‘allowed’ access. But not a mandate you ‘have to have’, such as governments ‘have to provide’…. But many do offer.

    Its becoming a commodity like our tap water in some areas, where others you still live with a well, or worse go to the stream to get…

    Where other areas of the world are still a desert.

    My answer is simply its a right to get access, but not a ‘absolute need’…. and I BARELY make that assessment…. its getting closer to a ‘human right’ and I would not blame anyone on either side of the thought behind this.

  • Amy

    I do think MPR is more intelligent than to ask this really, really, stupid question.

  • Donavon

    Free and open avenues of communication is a fundamental human right.

  • Steve the Cynic

    I don’t know, Amy. It seems a lot less stupid than the one about the end of the world.

  • DanW

    You could ask the same question about sending/receving regular mail, or calling/being called on the telephone. It’s about the ability to communicate.

    By our constitution, we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Any of those three can and do depend on our ability to communicate.

  • DNA

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Article 19.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

  • Homer

    What’s next – cel phones for everyone. Oh Yah, Obama’s already handing them out to drug dealers.

    You think MPR is not a lib station? Check out all the “A” grades given to the nitwit governor in a previous question.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “…cel phones for everyone. Oh Yah, Obama’s already handing them out to drug dealers.”

    Where did that bullshit come from? And why are people so willing to believe bullshit like that?

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