Promoting human rights on the Internet means expanding access, so that the benefits conferred may be enjoyed as widely as possible, especially as access to the Internet is increasingly being recognised as a human right. Important access gaps have emerged in the past decades. These include a significant divide in penetration rates between developed and developing countries and between urban and rural populations. These discrepancies are the result of various factors, such as infrastructure challenges and costs that make it either easier or more difficult to connect; social challenges that create a lack of demand, which in turn inhibits the Internet’s spread; and regulatory obstacles that hinder the expansion of Internet access, either by design or because of a lack of understanding of the mechanics of how the Internet works.
Recommendations for Private Sector Online Intermediaries:
- Internet access providers should invest a reasonable proportion of their profits in expanding the infrastructure for providing access to the Internet, particularly so as to reach underserved communities, including potentially through entering into public-private partnerships to advance this goal.
- Internet access providers should consider funding or otherwise supporting programmes or schemes designed to support access for poorer households.
- Internet access providers should work to mitigate or eliminate pricing differentials between rural and urban customers.
- Private sector online intermediaries (intermediaries) should promote the development of content of relevance to less connected communities and/or in smaller languages, and awareness raising in those communities and language groups about the potential of the Internet.
- Intermediaries should promote accessibility for the disabled by adopting the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
- Internet access providers should make reasonable efforts to monitor attempts by governments to adopt legislative rules which unduly undermine the expansion of access to the Internet and should engage in or support awareness raising and advocacy efforts to combat such moves.
- Internet access providers should never acquiesce to an external request to cut off access or deny service to a user unless required to do so by a clear and binding legal order.