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Europeans should have ‘a right to internet access’

Strasbourg, 09.04.2014 – PACE has called on European governments to guarantee an individual “right to internet access”, in both law and practice, and to lay down basic standards of service.

The Assembly said web access should be affordable and secure, subject only to legitimate restrictions laid down by law, and data should be treated without discrimination under national law on a basis of “net neutrality”.

The web has “revolutionised” the way people interact, the parliamentarians said, and such access would enable citizens to better exercise their right to freedom of expression and other basic human rights.

Approving two reports by Jaana Pelkonen (Finland, EPP/CD) and Axel E. Fischer (Germany, EPP/CD), the Assembly also said internet users’ trust had been “deeply undermined” by recent revelations of mass surveillance by national security services, hacking, data-mining and the “profiling” of individuals through their net use.

It called for a series of steps to improve the protection of users in cyberspace, including:

  • an “action plan” from European governments to prevent mass violations of the right to privacy revealed by Edward Snowden;
  • new laws to ensure data is moved, stored, analysed or intercepted only in ways compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights – which has long protected each person’s “private life and correspondence”;
  • a global initiative to improve user protection and security, bringing together governments and industry;
  • speeding up the “globalisation” of internet governance so that all stakeholders, including governments, participate on an equal footing.