Universal internet access is a basic human right, says CHR

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is calling on legislators and concerned government agencies to provide Filipinos with universal access to the internet because online access in this digital era is a basic human right.

Commission on Human Rights (MANILA BULLETIN)
Commission on Human Rights (MANILA BULLETIN)

CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said that this realization of a basic human right is the reason why they are supporting Senate Bill 1831 or the Better Internet Act.

The Better Internet Act aims to provide all Filipinos with fast, reliable, secure, and affordable internet access. The said law will mandate the increase in service coverage, setting of threshold speed and other service standards, streamlining of permits, and infrastructure sharing among service providers.

The proposed policy will also affirm the importance of technological advancements in nation building, economic development, and the promotion of people's well-being through provision of citizen-centric information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures.

De Guia cited the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which sadly exposed gaps and inequalities among Filipinos. One of these inequalities is access to the internet.

"In a time when majority of the population are forced to stay home, the internet has been championed as the remedy in approaching the new normal. But the reality is that not everyone has access to internet," she said. "And for those who do, they cannot enjoy quality and stable internet connection."

Digital technology has become integral to all government response to the COVID-19 health crisis, ranging from access to information, work from home arrangements, distance learning, and e-commerce, among many other things. De Guia said there is no denying that the use of the internet is "crucial" in helping Filipinos deal with the pandemic.

"With efficient, cost-effective, and reliable ICT infrastructures, digital inclusion may shift the labor force towards high-skills, boosts employment, reduces extreme poverty, and increases productivity and economic growth," she said.

If the issue of poor internet connection remains unaddressed, the CHR warned that the digital divide might become the new face of inequality and reinforce social and economic disadvantages, especially among the marginalized and vulnerable sectors of society.