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article imageSurvey: Majority say access to Internet 'fundamental right'

By Chris Dade     Mar 8, 2010 in Internet
A survey conducted on behalf of the BBC found a large majority of respondents stating they believe access to the Internet to be a "fundamental right".
The survey, involving 27,973 adult citizens from 26 countries, was conducted on behalf of the BBC by the Canadian-based company GlobeScan, from November through February.
When participants were asked the question "Should the Internet be a fundamental right?", 79 percent answered in the affirmative, with 50 percent "strongly agreeing" that such a right exists.
Some of the people making up that 79 percent do not necessarily have access at the present time. When the figures are adjusted to reflect the views of those currently enjoying Internet access, the percentage seeing access as a right increases to 87 percent.
The countries with some of the highest percentages of their populations saying that they view Internet access as a "fundamental right" include South Korea (96 percent), Mexico (94 percent), and China (87 percent).
Authorities in some countries apparently agree with the view strongly expressed in the survey, the BBC noting that Finland and Estonia have already recognized access to be a human right for their citizens. In addition, it notes that the UN wishes to see universal access.
The biggest fears respondents had concerning the Internet were fraud (32 percent), violent and explicit content (27 percent) and threats to privacy (20 percent).
Another statement with which respondents were asked was, "The Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere".
Fifty-three percent of those taking part in the survey agreed with that statement, with percentages in excess of 70 being recorded in Nigeria and Mexico and a percentage of 83 being recorded in South Korea.
In contrast, says Reuters, the percentages in Pakistan, Turkey and China - the last country often in the news regarding its censorship of the Internet - agreeing with the statement were only 12,13 and 16 respectively.
Many Europeans were reportedly comfortable with at least some government regulation. For example in the U.K., where there are efforts to pass a Digital Economy Bill 55 percent of people questioned believed some regulation was acceptable.
Last November, the EU adopted an Internet freedom provision intended, in the words of then European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding, to:substantially enhance consumer rights and consumer choice in Europe's telecoms markets, and add new guarantees to ensure the openness and neutrality of the Internet. It will boost competition and investment in telecoms markets, and open up airwaves for new mobile services, allowing Internet broadband for all Europeans
Chairman and Founder of GlobeScan, Bob Miller, is quoted as saying in respect of the findings of the survey:Despite worries about privacy and fraud, people around the world see access to the Internet as their fundamental right. They think the Web is a force for good, and most don't want governments to regulate it
Large numbers in Japan, Mexico and Russia believe that they could not live without the Internet and overall nearly 80 percent of respondents were said to have spoken of the greater freedom the Internet has brought them.
In terms of expressing opinions "safely" online, in India, Ghana and Kenya that is apparently not seen as a problem. Yet in Germany, South Korea, France and Japan significant percentages - 72, 70, 69 and 65 - consider it an issue.
Writing in May 2009 on CNET News Matt Asay, recently appointed the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Canonical Ltd, the commercial sponsor of the free-of-charge community developed operating system Ubuntu, said that he does not believe Internet access to be a "fundamental right".
Seemingly fearful of government overreach he observed that "Speech is fundamental, but how you express it need not be" and went on to say that "The Western world is big on rights these days, and seems to forget its responsibilities". He cited the U.S. Constitution as enshrining "fundamental rights", but argued that it mostly involved:keeping government out of the lives of citizens, whereas these new government-granted rights do the opposite: they beg government to get deeply involved with citizens' lives through taxes and regulation
His conclusion was that:[The IT industry] may choose to shoulder the responsibility for delivering Internet access to Europe and the rest of the world, but let's term it as a "fundamental responsibility," and not as a "fundamental right
By "we" he presumably means the IT industry.
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