A resource is classified as a basic necessity when the existence of human beings is fundamentally based on its access. The utility of such a resource becomes a part of their everyday existence, where they require it for their basic survival in the natural world, and also to develop their individual personality to the fullest.
Based on this classical notion of importance for human existence, political theorists and philosophers have classified various resources as fundamental rights or an entity which could be classified as an added luxury to make life easier.
This is what fundamentally classifies right to free air, water, education, equality in various social domains as fundamental rights while classifying services like banking, transportation, entertainment as luxurious entities. The right to economically exploit a resource or entity is basically governed by this moral principle.
When the internet was developed in the 1980s, it was seen as a medium to facilitate the exchange of information at a global level. Communication from person to person in 1980s transformed into a person to mass/mass to mass/government to mass/individual to a government entity with the rapid development in the internet technology.
Though we have had mediums of mass communication since historic times like books, newspapers, posters, radios, television, etcetera, humanity had never possessed a technology which would have enabled the flow of information throughout various social domains at such unique and individualistic levels.
From a tool of communication, the internet transformed into a tool of enlightenment. By the second decade of the 21st century, all the basic services which enabled an individual to function in the modern world were based around the ecosystem of the internet. It was no longer classified as ‘internet’ but was used with new terminology as the ‘Internet of Things.’
To develop an individual into a good Samaritan, access to the internet was seen as a vital commodity which could make that social transformation of an individual easier by encompassing social services of the government around the internet. One must remember that it is the duty of every government; democratic or autocratic, presidential or parliamentary; to provide its citizens with basic rights through which they could develop into a better individual in their own personal space.
As mentioned from the times of Plato and Aristotle, the biggest challenge faced by every form of State in the world was on how to translate basic social services to each and all on an equal basis. This was answered with the solutions provided by the Internet of Things.
Access to education was no longer a mass-based entity, as one could learn at their own convenience within their own personal space. Healthcare was a chief social concern as it was accessible only to a few who could afford it, and also because of its logistical constraint. However, this could now be provided at mass access to all.
Governmental services, which were burdened and subdued under the weight of bureaucracy, could now be provided in a simplistic manner to any citizen on their enquiry and convenience. Economic services like banking, retail consumerism, trading, leisure activities and services; all had the internet as the common basic infrastructure on which their growth was dependent in modern times.
The internet made the involvement of masses in the everyday decision-making process of their own governance possible, and also provided continuous feedback to the government which till now was only been understood through the outcome of an electoral process.
The rise of social media services like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp made our citizens more informed about their rights, surroundings, social circles and gave them a medium to express their opinions. Opinions were not only being expressed but also being heard by the organs of the State who acted accordingly on the feedback they received.
In summary, the internet has led to true democracy in the 21st-century world.
Hence, it would be unfair to let such a medium with such mammoth potential to be under the control of commercial entities. The issues of net neutrality, as well as access to fast internet, shouldn’t be determined by what one is willing to pay but on its merit on what one can achieve through its undiluted access. Net neutrality should be seen at par with the democratic rights of equality for all. While access to high-speed internet should be seen at par with the entity of justice, that is, justice delayed is justice denied.
As one cannot charge an individual for access to free air, as one can not charge an individual for the right to drink water, one should not be allowed to charge an individual for the right to have access to the internet.
Governments need to come forward and reach a consensus regarding their decision on the internet as a resource out of reach for commercial enterprises and unlock it equally to all. This would mean nationalising all internet services, which would be seen anti-liberal and communistic in approach, but we need to remember that the main idea behind the concept of State and the ideal goal of government is not to earn profit but to make lives of citizens harmonious.
Yes, costs have been incurred to develop the technology to its present form, and yes, making it free for all wouldn’t provide any more incentives to develop it, but strategies could be formulated to facilitate this transformation. If the world can come together to invest billions of dollars to save the environment, which is of negative economic potential (no profit to be generated) but of positive social consequences (that of saving humanity’s future); the world should also come forward to declare the internet as a fundamental right and make it free for all.