Finnishing What the Finns Started: EU to Adopt a “Right” to Broadband

by on November 5, 2009 · 9 comments

IDG News reports that the European Parliament has negotiated a telecom bill that “now contains a new Internet freedom provision that states that access to the Internet is a human right of every E.U. citizen, and that if authorities take away that right people must have the opportunity to defend themselves.” If indeed the bill merely creates what Americans would recognize as a “due process” right against government action, that may not be such a bad thing. IDG notes that, “The issue is very sensitive, and not just in Europe, where a number of countries including France and U.K. are passing laws threatening to sever users’ Internet connections if they are found to have breached the copyright on music or movies.” Whatever one thinks of such “three strikes” laws as a remedy for copyright infringement, it seems reasonable that users should indeed have the right to “defend themselves” if accused of copyright violations before their Internet access is turned off.

But we should all be uncomfortable anytime government purports to invent a new “fundamental right” if that right is a “positive” one—i.e., a moral entitlement to a particular product or service that must be guaranteed by other taxpayers paying for something someone can’t afford or simply doesn’t value enough to pay for out of their own pocket. That’s precisely what Finland recently did, guaranteeing Finns the “right” to a 1 megabit broadband connection. That sort of entitlement is pure cyber-collectivism. Cyber-libertarianism recognize instead that:

true “Internet freedom” is freedom from state action; not freedom for the State to reorder our affairs to supposedly make certain people or groups better off or to improve some amorphous “public interest”—an all-to convenient facade behind which unaccountable elites can impose their will on the rest of us.

So if the Europeans want to guarantee a due process right, I hope they would find another term for that concept doesn’t have such cyber-collectivist implications.

  • sailmold
  • Peter

    Dear Berin, I think you accelerate a bit too much toward Finnish ideas. The EU legal framework is such that a demand for a Finnish give away would end up in a section on universal service provisioning.

    Contrary to the USA several European Countries do not have a Supreme Court that can strike down laws made by parliament. It is not a prerogative of the courts to judge what parliaments write.
    That is very eighteenth century Montesquian thinking. In England there even isn't a Constitution.

    However a citizen can call on an EU Directive in court to strike down a law if it is in conflict. So what this does, if adopted, is it gives citizens a means to ask for a judicial review of a law.

    Wouldn't it be included, than this kind of review wouldn't be possible in several EU member states. In that cases the absence of “due process” would only be judged ex-post, after someone has been shut out from the Internet, and that process then would also include all kinds of case-dependent circumstances, fuzzying the principle review.

    As the formal discussion in parliament around the Amendment is a part of the history that has to be taken into account with reviews, it is in this case obvious that it regards turning them off.
    If parliamentary debate would have turned around making Internet Access a universal service, to be provided for by governments, then your latter interpretation would be justified.

    EU Directives have to be translated in national legislation. If a national legislature interprets it as a prescription to write an act that creates a “positive right” it is their own decision.

  • Peter

    Dear Berin, I think you accelerate a bit too much toward Finnish ideas. The EU legal framework is such that a demand for a Finnish give away would end up in a section on universal service provisioning.

    Contrary to the USA several European Countries do not have a Supreme Court that can strike down laws made by parliament. It is not a prerogative of the courts to judge what parliaments write.
    That is very eighteenth century Montesquian thinking. In England there even isn't a Constitution.

    However a citizen can call on an EU Directive in court to strike down a law if it is in conflict. So what this does, if adopted, is it gives citizens a means to ask for a judicial review of a law.

    Wouldn't it be included, than this kind of review wouldn't be possible in several EU member states. In that cases the absence of “due process” would only be judged ex-post, after someone has been shut out from the Internet, and that process then would also include all kinds of case-dependent circumstances, fuzzying the principle review.

    As the formal discussion in parliament around the Amendment is a part of the history that has to be taken into account with reviews, it is in this case obvious that it regards turning them off.
    If parliamentary debate would have turned around making Internet Access a universal service, to be provided for by governments, then your latter interpretation would be justified.

    EU Directives have to be translated in national legislation. If a national legislature interprets it as a prescription to write an act that creates a “positive right” it is their own decision.

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