Is Right to Internet a Fundamental Right ?
It was Finland who went ahead to legislate the right to broadband, although in practice it was to achieve a universal service obligation requiring all telecom companies to provide residents with a line of at least 1 Mbps. A number of countries later followed with the right to internet and began to offer Wi-fi connections. It was in 2017, the Kerala Government announced that Internet access was a basic right and in 2019 it announced that will spend around Rs. 1500 crore to build a fibre optic network to provide internet access to every household present in the state.
All these cases represent a wrapping to provide subsidised internet connections as well as providing publicly financed freebies to the electorate. This is problematic, as the government begins to interfere in a competitive market. These free Wi-fi services affect the commercial WI-Fi and 4G mobile services which effect the telecom operators. Another point is that free internet connection cannot be a fundamental right as it is something which costs someone else.If the government provides free internet connection, it would have to pay for my internet connection and in that case it would come from the taxpayers.
There are high economic costs associated with it. As the imposition of section 144 sees the shut down of telephone and internet connections frequently. It is an abuse of the statutory provisions and violation of fundamental rights. The collateral damage from cutting off the telephone and internet connection, even for a few hours almost outweighs the benefits. We need to implement safeguards to ensure that the Internet cannot be switched on and off as per whims and fancies. We don’t need a new right to the internet as we already have it. It is implicit in our fundamental rights, what we need are better legal procedures to ensure that the bar for denial of access to internet is higher and better protected.
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