The BBC recently published a worldwide study about internet usage and access. One of the question was if access of the internet was a fundamental right. The results? Nearly 79% they either “strongly agreed or somewhat agreed” that access was a fundamental right. The problem with this question is that it is not the least big clear. My first question was probably not unique: What do you mean by access?
The answer? I have no idea. I went to the published report (warning: PDF). It has the actual questions asked. For internet access, all this is all that was asked:
To what extent do you agree or disagree that access to the internet should be a fundamental right of all people?
No clarification, no further details. It is a terrible question, full of misunderstanding. You can easily see this misunderstanding in the comments of this Engadget article. Each person interprets what access means differently
There are two main ways we can define internet access. The first defines internet access as a synonym for internet service. As in, the ability to get online is a fundamental right that the government should be pay for with tax income, similar to police protection or roads. The second definition says that looks at access as “the right to buy.” The government does not need to pay for your internet service; they merely need to provide that there is a place to buy it from for a reasonable price. Think utilities such as power or water. As can see, this is an important distinction.
And it probably influenced those numbers above. I can believe that three-fourths of people worldwide believe that the second definition is true. There are even countries who have made the second into law, such as Finland. I do not believe a majority, or even a significant percentage, would agree with the first one. But the ambiguity of the question means we don’t really know.
In order to debate the merits of anything, we have to agree on what we are debating. A clear set of definitions is the only way to start. Then can we actually make progress toward enacting any real change.
-That is all