While this decision may seem straightforward, with the complex nature of human rights law considered, the resolution is far from simple.
In the face of the UN’s resolution, in part three of our series, we flip the coin and look at the the threats to net neutrality and unrestricted internet access. For this deep dive, we consult with the CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation, Anne Jellema and director of strategy for Free Press, Tim Karr.
From an article by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker:
In the first decades of the twentieth century, as a national telephone network spread across the United States, A.T. & T. adopted a policy of “tiered access” for businesses. Companies that paid an extra fee got better service: their customers’ calls went through immediately, were rarely disconnected, and sounded crystal-clear. Those who didn’t pony up had a harder time making calls out, and people calling them sometimes got an “all circuits busy” response. Over time, customers gravitated toward the higher-tier companies and away from the ones that were more difficult to reach. In effect, A.T. & T.’s policy turned it into a corporate kingmaker.
If you’ve never heard about this bit of business history, there’s a good reason: it never happened. Instead, A.T. & T. had to abide by a “common carriage” rule: it provided the same quality of service to all, and could not favor one customer over another. But, while “tiered access” never influenced the spread of the telephone network, it is becoming a major issue in the evolution of the Internet. Until recently, companies that provided Internet access followed a de-facto commoncarriage rule, usually called “network neutrality,” which meant that all Web sites got equal treatment.
More episodes from the podcast series:
Episode 1: Exploring the United Nations’ resolution that considers internet access to be a basic human right. Listen
Episode 2: Learn more about Estonia, one of the first countries in the world to classify internet access as a human right. Listen
Episode 4: Internet accessibility in the developing world. Listen
Sources: the guardian.com; newyorker.com