The Brazilian Senate is considering a bill that would declare access to broadband a social right under the country’s constitution, according to El Nuevo Herald. The Journalism in Americas blog quotes the paper as saying the Senator sponsoring the amendment to the Brazilian constitution wants the government to pay for universal access to broadband. The bill, located here, doesn’t appear to offer any speed requirements or dollar figures, but it does note that only 17.2 percent of Brazil has web access, placing it 69th in the world according to data from the International Unit of Telecommunications, a division of the UN.
In September of last year, the ITU suggested access to broadband be considered a fundamental human right. At the time, it encouraged governments to avoid imposing heavy taxes on broadband and to make it easier for companies to develop broadband services, including making mobile spectrum available. In light of the role web-based communication played in recent citizen uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, it’s easy to see how Brazil could make a case for web access as a fundamental right, both as a means of expression and communication, but also as a tool to help lift Brazilians out of poverty.
If Sen. Rodrigo Rollemberg of the Brazilian Socialist Party manages to pass this amendment, Brazil will be in a vastly different position from Finland, which was the first country to declare broadband access a legal right last July. Finland, which ranks in the top 10 for broadband penetration under the ITU, already had significant wireline and wireless broadband infrastructure. In December 2010, it scored a 4G Long Term Evolution Wireless network as well. It’s one thing to declare broadband a legal right in a place where the infrastructure already exists and broadband is popular with the locals. For Brazil to do so would be a commitment to broadband access that would require more infrastructure, education and money. In general, should access to broadband be a basic right?
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