According to the UN, the Internet is now a human right. As an observer of issues related to the digital divide and network neutrality, I am overjoyed by this proclamation.
“There should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information via the Internet, except in a few, very exceptional, and limited circumstances prescribed by international human rights law,” Mr. La Rue stressed. [and librarians agree]
“In recent months, we have seen a growing movement of people around the world who are advocating for change – for justice, equality, accountability of the powerful and better respect for human rights,” Mr. La Rue said while presenting his new report* on the right to freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet to the UN Human Rights Council.
This is true, and yet we know of bloggers who are jailed in certain countries because of what or how they express themselves. This is a step in the right direction, and hopefully a wake up call for American politicians.
This is a bit of a rant. I am surprised that so few have stood up to the recent monopolies that have been created. Moreover, the restrictions that come from these companies are horrible. Much of this thought stems from a recent post over at Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanathan. The post was from Tim Wu and originally ran over at Boing Boing.
The alarming issues that I see are the following:
Even though you purchase a mobile device, you are restricted to what carrier you use. For example, my iPad must use AT&T while my Droid must use Verizon as carriers. Could you imagine if Honda owners were forced to use Shell, or Gap shoppers were forced to purchase coffee only at Starbucks. We would never accept that, yet we accept it in terms of mobile access. Tim Wu argues that this violates ownership rights and the right to freedom of speech.
Net neutrality is another issue. Carriers, we have really shrunk from a ton to a few ISPs (Aol, Juno, etc… are gone) leaving Comcast and AT&T as the two major ISPs. On the wireless side we have a few more, but really it’s just Verizon and AT&T based on usage. The problem with the lack of competition is the ISPs can get away with attempts to censor or restrict freedom. For example, they have both attempted to block all access to SKYPE or YouTube. They argue that these sites suck up too much bandwidth. If you can’t use the internet to communicate with loved ones, or to view some video’s, what the heck good is it? Net neutrality is of fundamental importance to librarians, who strive for free and open access.
Why do we continue to accept these two attempts at restriction?