Last month, Viviane Reding ruffled a few feathers when she stated that “Internet access is a fundamental right”. As it happens, I'd written the same thing, albeit with rather less authority, last year. Obviously, that's a very strong statement, because it implies that taking away an Internet connection is an infringement of that right – which means, in its turn, that the “three strikes and you're out” is a grossly disproportionate punishment for copyright infringement.
What's interesting is that the general public seems to be coming around to the view that access to the Internet may not be exactly a right, but that it's pretty essential for modern life:
UK consumers now believe broadband is becoming as essential a utility as electricity or water, according to a panel of government advisers.
Some 73% of those questioned described a high-speed connection as important.
This result is being framed in terms of broadband access and speeds:
The Communications Consumer Panel's research involved 16 focus groups and a face-to-face survey with 2,000 people across the UK.
Its findings will be submitted to Lord Carter's Digital Britain review, due to be published on 16 June.
It is expected that the report will include a government commitment to provide universal broadband at a speed of 2Mbps (megabits per second) by 2012.
But what's really important is the issue I referred to above: that if the Internet is indeed so important to functioning in a modern society, and is equivalent to having electricity or water supplied to a house, then the logical implication is that it must never be cut off – just as electricity and water can never be cut off.
Let's hope Lord Carter and his team grasp this key point.