Why internet is still not a fundamental right | Thoughts #24

Thank you for internet that I’m able to write the blogs that I do. The lockdown and the restrictions has had a huge toll on humanity as a whole, but I’d say it’s not so bad considering we have internet. Imagine the time of Black Death, what in the world did they do to pass time in their lockdowns, actually isolation and moreover that disease was far more potent in killing than COVID-19. We literally cannot imagine our lives without internet, I know this is cliche almost, but it’s not. When in 2011 the UN came with Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the report mentioned some things that made headlines as “UN declares internet a Human Right” possible, it was a bit far fetched but arguable. Here are some of those points:

The Internet has become ‘a key means’ by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, as stated in Art. 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

  • The Special Rapporteur confirms that Art. 19 ‘was drafted with foresight to include and to accommodate future technological developments through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression’.
  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression is not only a fundamental right of its own accord but is also ‘an “enabler” of other rights, including economic, social and cultural rights’, such as the right to education and the right to take part in cultural life and to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, as well as civil and political rights, such as the rights to freedom of association and assembly’.
  • By acting as ‘a catalyst’ for individuals to exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Internet also facilitates the realisation of other human rights.

It makes it clear that without internet the full effect of human rights especially freedom of expression and opinion isn’t fully possible, which is obvious given that most of the opinions and expressing of the same is done online now. Even right to education, economic, social and cultural rights come into it.

In India after 10 months of the reading down (which people falsely title as ‘revocation’) of Article 370 the Supreme court finally had some sympathy after delaying the hearing for so long. It declared the access to internet a fundamental right referring to Article 19 (1) (a) in the Indian constitution, which is that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression. As noted by the UN internet is an important factor in the facilitation of this right. But what nothing in neither Indian Supreme Court’s statement or UN’s report clarifies is what exactly is internet.

The basic definition of internet is that it is an interconnected network. Now networks have processing capacities, and the higher the size of the the thing being processed the more connection you need. Theoretically speaking, if the size of the general content on this interconnected network exceeds the (allowed or capped) processing capacity of the network then the connection is of no use. I remember in 2013 we used to have the internet packs from the ISP of 1GB per month, sometimes it wasn’t even a full 1GB but rather 1000MBs. And even then some of the allowance remained unused. Now, I don’t think it’s a overstatement but the general internet in today’s time – which correlates with the general content size on the network (internet) – takes upto 1-3GBs per day at minimum. It isn’t necessarily that the person is overusing the internet it’s that the information size (bytes) on the internet has drastically increases over the years. Where a simple 10 minute video on normal resolution of 480p (sometimes 720p is considered normal/general) takes hundreds of MBs, which is also evident by the internet packs we have now.

Now this functioning is important to understand because even if internet is “allowed” what defines internet and thus I’d say the “fundamental right” is the allowance of the processing capacity (i.e. speed). It is of no use to allow speeds in Kbps when the information/content demands speeds in over 2-3Mbps to function properly. That right there is hinderance in the “fundamental right” thus consequently also a hinderance and defiance of the UN’s report. In 17 days (the blog was written on July 18) Kashmir will complete the hinderance of fundamental rights’ anniversary. The lockdown in Kashmir started on 5th August 2019, because of COVID people have “suffered” the lockdown for a couple of months with at bare minimum general basic internet speeds, they had been suffering with no internet or even SMS or phone calls for 6 months and Kbps worth of internet speeds where demands reach to over a dozen Mbps.

Internet is everything in the world we live, and it’s hinderance is restricting everything as well. I don’t know that if the 2G speeds that accompanies the daily life of the Kashmir region is technically even internet, because although it seems obvious but the requirements are so high that it’s dumb to not realise the effects of it. True Nirvana comes by suffering through the YouTube buffer at 144p and the salvation occurring after getting into the habit of offline-ing the YT video overnight and watching it in the morning. But this salvation literally costs lives in hospitals, the economy degrades massively, and as the Indian constitution recognises fundamental rights as “necessary for existence and development of individuals”, the allowance of the functioning of this right as we currently see, laughs on the said recognition.

Bibliography

  • https://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/%E2%80%98un-declares-internet-access-human-right%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-did-it-really
  • https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.27_en.pdf
  • https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jammu-and-kashmir-lockdown-supreme-court-order-1635559-2020-01-10
  • https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/internet-access-fundamental-right-supreme-court-makes-official-article-19-explained-1635662-2020-01-10

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