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Internet Freedom and the Negative Impact of Command-and-Control Networking

July 25, 2011

A growing international consensus holds that communication is a fundamental human right. In 2010, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the importance of access to the Internet and information in his remarks to the assembly, and last September, ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré said, “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness.”

Additionally, Spain and Finland have elevated broadband access to a legal right, and 20 EU nations along with the US have set goals for universal broadband access.

Internet Freedom and the Negative Impact of Command-and-Control Networking PDF - By Sascha Meinrath, James Losey, Benjamin Lennett, New America Foundation

While most commentators and policy makers have focused on the benefits of broadband and Internet connectivity, two significant dilemmas receive less attention. First, the challenges the unconnected face — the “dark side of Metcalfe’s law” — have remained less explored. Telecommunications experts Rahul Tongia and Ernest Wilson propose that “the more people included within and enjoying the benefits of a network, the more the costs of exclusion grow exponentially to the excluded.”

The second key overlooked facet is that not all connectivity is created equal. Where, how, and what technologies and devices you use to connect to the Internet or broadband will increasingly determine your experience and access to digital opportunities. These two concerns are creating a more nuanced digital divide that manifests itself in terms not only of who has access to broadband and who doesn’t but also of what users can actually do with their connectivity. How government policies address these new divides could determine whether the promise of the Internet as a universal communications medium is fulfilled or serves to re-enforce existing societal inequities.

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