Free Global Internet Access Should Be a Basic Human Right, Experts Conclude

A first of its kind study aims to show how crucial it is that everyone has a chance to influence global leaders online.

You most likely don't think twice before jumping onto the internet to look something up, research information, or write a blog post. However, many people around the planet still have no online access.

Experts are pushing forward the notion that free internet access should be considered a 'basic human right'.

In a one-of-its-kind study, researchers from the University of Birmingham point out that many people without internet access — predominantly in developing countries — don't have an opportunity to influence global leaders in their decision-making process. 

RELATED: THESE 9 CITIES OFFER THE LARGEST FREE WIFI NETWORKS

Political push

The study points out that much political debate and engagement happens online these days. This falls in line with many basic freedoms that certain people in the world enjoy without batting an eye: freedom of expression, freedom of information, and freedom of assembly. 

The researchers are saying that without free internet access, these basic human rights are denied. Thus, internet access should also fall under the category of basic human right. 

The study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Philosophyopens the debate that access to the internet enables millions of people's lives to be 'minimally decent'.

Merten Reglitz, Global Ethics lecturer at the University of Birmingham said that "Internet access is no luxury, but instead a moral human right and everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium -- provided free of charge for those unable to afford it."

"Without such access, many people lack a meaningful way to influence and hold accountable supranational rule-makers and institutions," continued Reglitz.

Much of today's political debate across the globe happens online, and political information is also shared in this manner. So by limiting people's access to the world wide web, their ability to voice their opinions about the rules that lead their day to day lives is also limited. 

Naturally, the researchers acknowledged that direct online access does not necessarily guarantee these rights. Here are a few examples of when it did: 

  • The 'Arab Spring'- which brought out new ways of global reporting on government atrocities.
  • Documenting unjustified police violence against African Americans in the U.S.
  • #MeToo campaign—when women spoke up about sexual harassment by powerful men.

The study also points out institutions and countries that are already working on bringing free internet access to more people: 

  • Kerala state in India has declared universal internet access a human right and aimed to provide it for its 35 million people by 2019.
  • The European Union launched the WiFI4EU campaign to bring free wireless internet to every European village and city by 2020. 

Steps are already happening, but more still needs to be done, according to this study's researchers.

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