WORKING PAPER • VOL. 6 • N° 19 • February 2020

Access to the Internet in the EU: a policy priority, a fundamental,
a human right or a concern for eGovernment?

by Lina Jasmontaite and Paul de Hert 


After outlining the relevant regulatory provisions governing access to the Internet in the EU (section 2) and its Member States (section 3), and after summarizing arguments supporting the introduction of the right to Internet access, the authors seek to broaden the scope of social and legal debates on Internet access in the EU. In particular, they question (a) whether the Internet is a vital element to achieve a decent standard of living in the Gigabit society (section 4); and (b) whether it deserves a place alongside the fundamental rights or human rights (section 5) and under what conditions it could be incorporated among the EU fundamental rights (section 6). The following sections of the chapter reflect on the potential scope of a right to Internet access (sections 7 and 8) and how eGovernment could facilitate the introduction of such a right (section 9). Considerations about limitations of a right to Internet access are addressed in section 10.
Access to the Internet is inherently an Internet governance matter and therefore its regula- tion should entail a multi-stakeholder debate. Access to the Internet then would be seen not only in a technical way as a communication service but as ‘the set of devices, services, facilities and skills that allow people to connect to and use Internet services, applications and content’. Perhaps, this shift in approach could strengthen the EU’s role within the broader context of Internet governance.
The authors suggest that the EU debate on Internet access should employ a human rights-based approach to Internet access because the social benefits brought by the Internet cannot be defined by numbers. The authors conclude that acknowledgment or 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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