How Internet Access As A Human Right Could Impact Tech Companies – Forbes

The case for internet access as a human right remains a hotly debated subject. However, in the post-pandemic world, it’s one that is becoming increasingly skewed toward the affirmative. Data Reportal reports that 63% of the world uses the internet daily. When internet access is a requirement of functionality in the modern world, when does it become a human right?

When the world shut down in 2020, everything went online. Many jobs continued to exist in remote spaces. School made a rapid shift to a virtual setting. Even everyday life activities, like visits to the doctor and social interactions, were digitized.

As the world has exited thew stages of lockdowns and quarantines, the internet has remained in the spotlight. If this emphasis on the internet as a need rather than a want leads to its qualification as a human right in the future, it won’t impact consumers alone. It will also have a dramatic effect on tech companies.

Regulations Will Influence Everything

It’s no secret that when something becomes a human right, regulators treat it differently. For instance, as steel and oil became important in the late 19th century, antitrust laws were introduced to avoid certain companies from dominating the supply.

At this point, the internet has become as important as these basic commodities. If the government were to formally deem it a human right, tech companies could expect an increasing number of regulations to come their way. It’s something that even tech executives like Mark Zuckerberg have been talking about for years now.

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The concept of the FCC regulating the internet isn’t new. But as the internet nestles further into the list of life’s necessities, tech leaders should brace for more hoops to jump through.

Quality Will Come Into the Spotlight

If internet access becomes a right, the market competition will likely shift. Rather than focusing on whether or not a consumer can connect to the internet in the first place, providers will need to adopt more of a conciliatory approach toward their customers.

Smart Wi-Fi company Plume recently shed light on the severity of poor customer service in the internet space. The company reported that CSPs (communications service providers) have a blended churn rate 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 main reason for doing so.

As the number of homes with operating Wi-Fi networks approaches 100%, the number of individuals with problems will increase. The companies that can cater to those needs best will have the greatest chance of winning over loyal customers and maintaining sustained growth in an internet-required world.

Tech Companies Could Face Future Content Battles

If the internet becomes a necessity, it may only be a matter of time before the question of rights shifts to the content that it provides. While this is a more nuanced battle, like anti-trust laws for oil and steel, it isn’t a new one.

The Romans are famous for offering bread and circuses to their underprivileged citizens. While this included life-sustaining food, it also provided a dole of free entertainment — something that is certainly less “necessary.”

If access to the internet becomes a human right, could it only be a matter of time before access to and affordability of online entertainment comes into question as well?

Gartner’s definition of CSPs contains content and application service providers (or CASPs). This umbrella term includes companies like Yahoo and Google. The latter is one of the chief drivers of online content, and the battle is already heating up over its monopolistic dominance of the interweb. Is it too alien to assume that internet access as a human right could eventually extend to the content on that communication channel, as well?

From increased regulations to quality control to content battles, the concept of free or subsidized internet access comes with both risks and opportunities for tech companies. While there is some historical precedence, though, there are many factors at play here. Adaptability will be important as the tech industry makes its way into a wild and unpredictable future.

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