The business of global Internet access – Violation of a fundamental human right?

I have just been struck by connecting three pieces of data that promise a total disruption of how we perceive access to the Internet connectivity.

The first is a statistic[1] by the world economic Forum: 4 billion people mostly living in the developing world, do not have access to the Internet and by extension are not connected to engaging with business as we know it in the rest of the world. 75% of those who have access to the Internet live in a mere 23 countries.

The second is the declaration[2] by the United Nations that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right, or in other words, these 4 billion people are denied a fundamental human right.

The last piece of data comes from news reports providing us with tantalising visions of global Internet access using thousands of satellites (both mega and nano). Companies like SPACEx, Outernet, Google and Facebook are leading in the race to provide and in the process, gain first mover advantage in the industry. Governments like the European Union have similar initiatives. The EU is promising that the Galileo[3] GPS replacement system will offer free navigation for anyone globally amongst other features.

Linking all of this together, one gets the impression that the business of providing global broadband (free or paid for) is ripe for disruption. Moving from a business model where we pay for trickle-down cable or fibre based Internet provision which in turn is based on dated telecommunication business models, to one that promises unlimited, unrestricted, untethered Internet access is fascinating.

The ability to connect untapped segments of the global population to the outposts of the fourth Industrial Revolution will disrupt the economics of geography. Imagine the potential of having distributed global manufacturing points across low-cost countries? What about unleashing an additional 8 billion (a very conservative figure of mine) IoT devices using global Internet access?

Moving on, if we were to allow existing business models to operate, huge transnational entities would control access to data by virtue of their market dominance and therefore exert a more dangerous form of control over this human right? Do we want faceless, nameless entities shrouded in tax havens to control data?

If you think governments are better suited to the provision of global Internet access, then what about the abuse of privacy? In an age where cyber-attacks using both state sponsored cyber warfare strategies and state condoned cyber-actors are becoming the new normal, will we have ‘Big Brother’ watching every piece of data? Will this lead to a new form of colonisation of states using access to the Internet?

Will you therefore agree with me that regardless of how this disruption takes place, there will still be a violation of human rights in some form or the other?