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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Internet access becoming a right, no longer a privilege

I was recently asked to join the Board of Directors at O3b Networks. One of the reasons I accepted the position is that its mission is to make the Internet accessible to the Other 3 billion people in the world who have little or no Internet access.

As you're reading this blog post on your connected computer, did you realize that's how many people lack what you depend on for most, if not all, of your day?

Now contrast that with growing international sentiment that Internet access is a fundamental human right. In fact, an article in PCWorld, "Vast Majority Feel Internet Access is a Right" cites a recent survey conducted by the BBC that found a majority of Internet users now consider it to be a right, not just a privilege.

I agree with the survey's conclusions. I couldn't run my business, let alone create and sell my products without the Internet. It is directly connected to my family's livelihood. I wouldn't be blogging today without it, and you wouldn't be reading this post.

A lot of these 3 billion people are in Africa, and for those who might not know, that's where I was born. It's another reason why I took the position on the Board. The economic and educational benefits of the Web could change the future of nations that, today, have little or no Web access. No country should be denied the benefits of the Internet revolution.

A friend of mine started O3b Networks with this lofty goal, and I believe in what he's trying to accomplish. By providing Internet access, O3b hopes to enable individuals, families, communities, and nations to enrich their quality of life through greater interactivity with the modern world.

How in the world is it going to do this? Long story short, O3b is launching satellites 5,000 miles above the Earth's equator. These are called low-Earth orbit satellites. Because the satellites are much closer to the planet's surface, the time it takes to move data is greatly reduced.

This has been the number one problem with satellite Internet. Satellites that are 22,000 miles above the Earth make Internet gaming, for example, unusable because the data transmissions are too slow for trigger-happy gamers.

That's just one example of how reducing the lag time for data transmission is a plus for this initiative. Of course there is the cost to think about and a zillion other details, but you can dig into all of that on O3b's Web site.

By the end of 2010, we hope that eight satellites will be orbiting, bringing faster Internet to the people who need it most. I believe that O3b is moving in the right direction to open up Internet to everyone. With it, they can offer easier, faster, and more affordable connectivity to their customers, profitably, and therefore sustainability.

I want to see Internet access as universal as access to telephone, television, and electricity. Frankly, even those technologies haven't reached global ubiquity. We need to push governments, companies, and entrepreneurs to make these communications resources accessible. In addition to food, water, and medicine, they need to be available and affordable to the people in the furthest points of the earth as they are in the center of New York City.


Anonymous said...

It is absurd to speak about a right to internet access.

A right enables an individual in a free society to take the actions necessary to support, further, fulfill, and enjoy his own life.

It does not permit him to demand that others sacrifice themselves to fulfill any desire he feels, regardless of how much he needs the object of his desire.

In other words, a right is the freedom to act and keep the product of one's actions, not the power to force others to satisfy any need one has, including the need for internet access.

Anonymous said...

"It does not permit him to demand that others sacrifice themselves to fulfill any desire he feels, "

I see you're thinking - but we're talking about free market stuff here. No one is being forced into anything.

And access to the Internet seems like an extension of freedom of speech - not some expanded entitltement program.

Anonymous said...

The issue here is not what some businessmen choose to do with their own money.

Rather the issue is what the vast majority feels they have a right to.

Just because they feel they have a right to internet access, that does not make it a right.

The only rights they have, are the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

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