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Fundamental Rights: Life, Liberty, and”¦Internet Access?

March 8, 2010

According to a new global poll conducted by GlobeScan and the BBC World Service, four out of five adults believe that Internet access is a fundamental right for citizens around the world.

The survey, which was conducted between November 2009 and February 2010, polled nearly 28,000 individuals in 26 countries, found that 87-percent of Internet users and 71-percent of non-users believe that access to email and the World Wide Web was a right, not a privilege.

Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News the results show that governments should begin to “regard the internet as basic infrastructure – just like roads, waste and water.”

“The right to communicate cannot be ignored,” Dr. Toure added, calling the Internet “the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created.”

According to the key findings of the study, 50-percent of those asked if Internet access was a fundamental right for all people said that they strongly agreed, while an additional 29-percent replied that they somewhat agreed. Nine percent slightly disagreed, while only six percent strongly disagreed.

Among the other findings of the GlobeScan / BBC World Service survey include:

“¢ Individuals who had used the Internet at least once during the six months prior to the study were asked what they valued most about it. The top positive aspect was the ability to find information of all sorts (selected by 47-percent), followed by interacting and communicating with others (32-percent).

“¢ Conversely, the aspect of the Internet that individuals found most concerning was the possibility for fraud (32-percent), closely followed by exposure to explicit or violent content (27-percent) and privacy threats (20-percent).

“¢ Ninety percent of those who responded to the survey said that they felt the Internet was a good place to learn, while more than three-fourths claim that online access gives them greater freedom. Fifty-three percent believe that the Internet should not face government regulation, while less than half feel that it is safe to express their opinions online.

GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller summed up the findings as follows: “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.”

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