The Internet has revolutionised how people interact, allowing
individual citizens to speak out freely in ways that were impossible
before the advent of the web. It has also opened up whole new possibilities
for people to access educational material, take part in cultural
life and organise themselves into groups.
In other words, according to the Committee on Culture, Science,
Education and Media, the Internet has made it much easier for people
to access basic rights – freedom of expression, freedom of association
and assembly – and other civil rights. For this reason, internet
access for all – with a minimum standard of service – should be
a public goal.
The committee believes that the Internet should be available
to all – regardless of age, place of residence or income. Governments
should recognise this as a right, both in law and in practice, and
lay down universal service requirements that service providers must
comply with, drawing on United Nations and European Union standards.
Web access should be affordable and secure, subject only to legitimate
restrictions laid down by law, and data traffic should be treated
without discrimination on a basis of strict “net neutrality”.
The Council of Europe should work with the commercial providers,
governments, the European Union and the United Nations to ensure
that universal Internet access throughout Europe becomes a reality.