Should Internet Access Be a Civil Right?

[Note: Snagged spotlights some of the latest and most stimulating articles on educational technology. This op-ed by Vinton G. Cerf was emailed to me by ETCJ associate editor Bonnie Bracey Sutton. Please send your catch of the day to me,, for possible snagging. -Editor]

In her email to me this morning, Bonnie says, “Here is a good discussion starter. It is from Vint Cerf.” I agree.

Vinton G. Cerf, in “Internet Access Is Not a Human Right” (NY Times, 1.4.12), explains that “Civil rights … are different from human rights because they are conferred upon us by law, not intrinsic to us as human beings.” He doesn’t see internet access as a right. It “is always just a tool for obtaining something else more important.” As such, “technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself.”

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts with us as a comment to this article or as a separate article submission. If you encounter problems posting your comment, email it to me and I’ll post it for you. -Jim (

3 Responses

  1. I think that if we want to educate, our students and create workforce readiness for the 21st Century that some universal applicaiton of broadband is needed to connect America.

    The local community should furnish support, and instruction.


  2. I agree with Vint Cerf. Free speech is a right, Internet access is not. Having said that I think broadband should be available to all people in all countries. If we want to create some new rights how about the right to have enough to eat.

  3. Internet access as a human right? Say again! Clearly hogwash.

    Internet access as a civil right? Not so fast. We’re not there yet.

    Internet access for all as a national goal. Now, you’re talking.

    Let’s face it. With so much “speaking” taking place on the Internet, someday access to the Internet will become a free speech issue. Can’t say if the Supreme Court will agree.

    For now, universal Internet has problems. However, we did rural electrification. We can do rural Internet. What about cities?

    Even here, we have access issues. I moved my business two years ago. My previous location was able to have T1 access (1.5 Mbps) for around $400 per month (down from $1,000 a few years earlier). Many locations did not have access to T1.

    Now, I have FIOS at 35 Mbps (yes, more than 20 times as fast) for around $200 per month (yes, half as much).

    Dial-up access to Internet should be a obsolete as rotary dial telephones. Universal direct Internet access must become a national goal in the interests of true democracy.

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