Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 2, 2010 4:11 PM

The Internet As Your Birthright

As much as democracy and the right to a fair trial, so too is connectivity and access to the Internet.

The news item titled, Finland makes 1Mb broadband access a legal right, from Cnet was published on October 14th, 2009. Check this out: "France, one of a few countries that has made Internet access a human right, did so earlier this year. France's Constitutional Council ruled that Internet access is a basic human right. That said, it stopped short of making 'broadband access' a legal right. Finland says that it's the first country to make broadband access a legal right."

Then, last week, it was reported that the law had passed. "'Internet services are no longer just for entertainment,' the country's communication minister told the BBC. Indeed, in a world where more and more people get their information online, Web access has become a precondition for an informed citizenry. Guaranteeing this access is not only necessary for societies seeking to advance technologically, but for any country with democratic aspirations. Prior to enshrining Internet access as a legal right, Finland had already done an impressive job getting its citizens online. Some 96 percent of the population already has Web access, leaving a mere 4,000 households - most of them located in the country's remote, Arctic outskirts - in need of a hookup. Given these statistics, passing such legislation looks more like a formality than a daring, expensive enterprise. The significance of Finland's undertaking, however, is not reflected in its cost or complexity, but in the message it sends: In the 21st century, the citizens of a democratic nation must be equipped with the tools to educate themselves about what is happening not only in their local communities, but around the world."

We spend a lot of time talking about shiny objects and the hot online social network of the day, but there is something bigger happening here and now.

Imagine how much our world has changed in the past few years. Imagine all of those naysayers who still think that the Internet is a fad simply because people have moved on from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook. This Blog (and many others like it) acts as an anti-mass media construct. Blogs - and even an individual's Twitter feed or YouTube page - are very much an important part of the media (some - myself included - may even argue that they are more important and more personal than other media channels). When Blogs first entered popular culture, there was debate as to whether or not the content should be considered credible like classic Journalism. Within a few years, we've arrived at the point where it's not only accepted, but more and more newspapers are rethinking/retooling their online presence (and let's not even talk about iPhone and iPad apps) to ensure that their messages (news and advertising) is reaching their markets. On top of this, many of the traditional news services scour the online channels for news (instead of hunting it down the way they used to).

What other media channels are your birthright?

TV, radio, free press, print, etc... think about their significance in your life versus what it would mean to not have any Internet or mobile connectivity. The communication minister of Finland is spot on. This isn't just about entertainment. This is about how we - as a society - are now intrinsically connected and what this means as that connectivity continues to not only get faster, but as it brings us all closer together.

The Internet as culture.

We used to think that "Internet Culture" was about lolcats and double rainbows, but it is a much bigger shift and something that - upon reflection - will probably have bigger ramifications on our culture than the advent of the printing press. So, while others are critical of the Internet Culture (look no further than the business books, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr and You Are Not A Gadget by Jaron Lanier), it's important to also remember that we're not at the end of the shift in culture just yet. We're still in the middle of this change, and the net result (pardon the pun) has yet to be finalized and defined. In the interim, moves like making Internet access a human right from Finland and France prove to be very interesting steps towards a very different future from the one any of us could have ever imagined.

The Internet as a birthright is another massive step toward understanding our future.

By Mitch Joel