Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Digital Technology

Global Politics, Law and International Relations

Edited by Ben Wagner, Matthias C. Kettemann and Kilian Vieth

In a digitally connected world, the question of how to respect, protect and implement human rights has become unavoidable. This contemporary Research Handbook offers new insights into well-established debates by framing them in terms of human rights. It examines the issues posed by the management of key Internet resources, the governance of its architecture, the role of different stakeholders, the legitimacy of rule making and rule-enforcement, and the exercise of international public authority over users. Highly interdisciplinary, its contributions draw on law, political science, international relations and even computer science and science and technology studies.
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Chapter 9: Access to the Internet in the EU: a policy priority, a fundamental, a human right or a concern for eGovernment?

Lina Jasmontaite and Paul de Hert


While some suggest that access to the Internet is a human right, in the EU, Internet access is primarily an economic concern. In light of the European Commission Communication ‘Connectivity for a Competitive Digital Single Market: Towards a Gigabit Society’, this chapter challenges the current EU approach to Internet regulation and questions whether a human rights-based approach to Internet access would be a better fit. After outlining the relevant regulatory provisions governing access to the Internet in the EU and its Member States (section 3), the chapter reflects on the EU vision of the Gigabit Society (section 4). Then, the chapter discusses Member States obligations with regard to Internet access (section 5) and explores three scenarios under which the right to access the Internet could be recognized as a fundamental right in the EU (section 6). The authors gather that the EU primary law provides for several options to recognize access to the Internet as a fundamental right. The authors point out that while a consensus among European countries to recognize Internet access as a fundamental right in domestic regulatory frameworks is emerging (section 7), policy-makers should carefully consider the scope (section 8) and limitations that could be imposed on this right (section 10). The authors suggest that to some extent the widespread application of eGovernment could strengthen, or even facilitate, the introduction of the right to Internet access in the EU (section 9). The authors conclude that recognition of Internet access as a fundamental right would be valuable as it would encourage policy- and law-makers, as well as civil society, to reconsider the scope and limitations imposed on this right.

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