The case for internet access as a human right remains a hot topic. In the post-pandemic world, however, it is a world that is increasingly leaning towards the affirmative. Data Reportal reports that: 63% of the world uses the internet every day. When internet access is a requirement for functionality in the modern world, when will it become a human right?
When the world went flat in 2020, everything went online. Many jobs continued to exist in remote areas. School made a rapid shift to a virtual setting. Even everyday activities, such as doctor visits and social interactions, were digitized.
While the world has moved out of the stages of lockdowns and quarantines, the internet has remained in the spotlight. If this emphasis on the Internet as a need rather than one want leads to its classification as a human right in the future, it does not only affect consumers. It will also have a dramatic effect on technology companies.
Regulations will affect everything
It’s no secret that when something becomes a human right, regulators treat it differently. For example, when steel and oil became important at the end of the 19th century, antitrust laws were introduced to prevent certain companies from dominating the supply.
Right now, the internet has become as important as these basic commodities. If the government formally considered it a human right, tech companies could expect more and more regulation to come their way. It’s something even technical managers like Mark Zuckerberg been talking about it for years.
The concept of the FCC regulating the Internet is not new. But as the internet settles into the necessities list, tech leaders must brace themselves for more hoops to jump through.
Quality comes in the spotlight
If internet access becomes a right, competition in the market is likely to shift. Rather than focusing on whether or not a consumer can connect to the Internet, providers will need to take a more conciliatory approach to their customers.
Smart Wi-Fi company Plume recently shed light on the seriousness of poor customer service on the Internet. The company reported that CSPs (communication service providers) have a mixed attrition of 20%. It added that 39% of those who canceled a contract with a CSP in the past two years cited customer service as the top reason.
As the number of homes with working Wi-Fi networks approaches 100%, the number of people with problems will increase. The companies that can best meet those needs have the best chance of winning loyal customers and sustaining sustainable growth in a world where the Internet is needed.
Tech companies can face future content battles
If the internet becomes a necessity, it may only be a matter of time before the issue of rights shifts to the content it provides. While this is a more nuanced battle like oil and steel antitrust laws, it’s not a new one.
The Romans are known for offering bread and games to their underprivileged citizens. While this included life-sustaining food, it also provided a portion of free entertainment—something certainly less “necessary.”
If access to the internet becomes a human right, could it be only a matter of time before access to and affordability of online entertainment are also questioned?
Gartner’s definition of CSPs includes content and application service providers (or CASPs). This umbrella term includes companies such as Yahoo and Google. The latter is one of the main drivers of online content, and the battle over the monopolistic dominance of the Internet is already heating up. Is it too strange to assume that internet access as a human right could eventually extend to the content on that communication channel?
From stricter regulations to quality control to content battles, the concept of free or subsidized Internet access poses both risks and opportunities for technology companies. While there is some historical precedence, many factors come into play here. Adaptability will be important as the tech industry navigates its way into a wild and unpredictable future.