Internet access

Internet access

Many technologies and service plans for Internet access allow customers to connect to the Internet. Consumer use first became popular through dial-up connections in the 20th century. By the 21st century, most products were marketed using the term "broadband".


Access as a human right

The United Nations has proposed that Internet access should be a human right. This push was made when it called for universal access to basic communication and information services at the UN Administrative Committee on Coordination. In 2003, during the World Summit on the Information Society, another claim for this was made.[1][2]

In some countries such as Estonia,[3] France, [4] Spain,[5] Finland[6] and Greece,[7] Internet access has already been made a human right.

Proliferation of users

Internet use around the world has been growing rapidly. With market saturation the phase of rapid growth is ending in industrialized countries, but the spread continues in Asia,[8] Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. For example, the PC Conectado program helped the industry to grow in Brazil.


Besides offices and residences, there are public places to use the Internet, including libraries and Internet cafes, where computers with Internet connections are available. Some libraries provide stations for connecting users' laptops to local area networks (LANs).

There are wireless Internet access points in public places such as airport halls, in some cases just for brief use while standing. These access points may also provide coin operated computers. Various terms are used, such as "public Internet kiosk", "public access terminal", and "Web payphone". Many hotels also have public terminals, though these are usually fee based.

Coffee shops, shopping malls and other venues also offer wireless access to computer networks, referred to as hotspots, for users who bring their own wireless-enabled devices such as a laptop or PDA. These services may be free to all, free to customers only, or fee-based. A hotspot need not be limited to a confined location. The whole campus or park, or even the entire city can be enabled. Grassroots efforts have led to wireless community networks.

Internet access as part of the digital divide

Internet access has grown from 10 million in 1993 to almost 40 million in 1995 and 670 million in 2002. It is estimated that the Internet now has 1.97 billion users. Despite this tremendous growth, Internet access has not been distributed equally throughout the world.[9]

The gap between people with Internet access and those without it is one of the many aspects of digital divide. Digital divide refers to “the gap between people with effective access to information and communications technology (ICT), and those with very limited or no access to ICT”. ICT consists of “televisions, telephones, videos and computers”.[10] Internet access is dependent on access to ICT. Whether someone has access to the Internet can depend greatly on financial status, geographical location as well as government policy. “Low-income, rural, and minority populations have received special scrutiny as the technological "have-nots."[11] Access to computers is the most dominant factor in determining Internet access. The United States has invested billions of dollars in efforts to breach the digital divide and grant Internet access to more people in low-income areas of the United States.[11] In 2009, The National Center for Education Statistics reported 93% of classroom computers had Internet access; and there was about one computer available per every five students. The Obama administration has continued this commitment of breaching the digital divide and expanding Internet to rural and low-income areas through stimulus money.[11]

Government policies play a tremendous role in Internet access. Egypt experienced five days with no Internet access on January 28, 2011 due to a decision made by their president, Hosni Mubarak. The freedom that the people of Egypt had to access information was taken from them. Internet access has changed the way in which many people think and has become an integral part of our economic, political, and social lives. Providing Internet access to more people in the world will allow them to take advantage of the “political, social, economic, educational, and career opportunities” given through Internet access.[9]

Types of connections

Although the term broadband once had a technical meaning, it has become "an excellent 21st-century buzzword."[12]

Common methods of consumer Internet access in 2011 include:

As of 2011, the following methods see a smaller usage share:

At the turn of the century most residential access was by dial-up while access from businesses was usually by higher speed connections. In subsequent years dial-up declined.

Access technologies generally use a modem, which converts digital data to analog for transmission over a particular analog network (ex. the telephone or cable networks).[13]


This technology dials into the network through an existing phone line, creating a semi-permanent link to the Internet.[13] Operating on a single channel, it monopolises the phone line and is the slowest method of accessing the Internet. Dial-up is often the only form of Internet access available in rural areas as it requires no infrastructure, other than the already existing telephone network, to connect to the Internet. Typically, dial-up connections do not exceed a speed of 56 kbit/s, as they are primarily made via a 56k modem.[13]


This term includes a broad range of technologies, all of which provide high data rate access to the Internet. Broadband provides a continuous connection; there is no dial-up/in process required and it does not “hog” phone lines.[13]


DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) provides a connection to the Internet through the telephone network. Unlike dial-up, DSL can operate using a single phone line without preventing normal use of the telephone line for phone calls. DSL uses the high frequencies, while the low frequencies of the line are left free for regular telephone communication.[13]


Wi-Fi is the standard method to connect a high-speed local area network via wireless transmitter/receiver. WiFi is convenient for mobile Internet users and can bring service to areas where wiring would be costly. WiFi service range is short, and penetration through building walls is limited.


WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) works similarly to WiFi in that it transmits information via airwaves, but it handles network traffic more efficiently. This technology penetrates building walls much more effectively and can be used across larger distances than WiFi.

Cable modem

Cable Modem transmits data via airwaves on the cable television infrastructure. Although cables have low interference, comparably high speeds, and allow television use, the cost of bringing service into an area (trenching cable) can be very high.


Data is transmitted via satellite dishes, which send and receive data to and from satellites in orbit in space. There are many factors that affect the reception of the Internet using this technology, including wind, rain, and trees. However, it is ideal for those living in rural areas where other internet access technologies have not been extended.[14]

Mobile Phones

Mobile broadband is wireless high-speed internet access through a portable telephone or mobile device. Information is transmitted through mobile towers.


Fiber optic wires convert electrical signals carrying data into light, and send this light through tiny transparent glass fibers. This method is extremely quick and has little interference. It is more expensive than other methods to deploy. Its speed is dependent on how close the fibers are to one's computer, the amount of bandwidth available, and how the service is configured.

Power-line Internet

Power-line Internet technology uses power lines to send and receive radio signals. Because of the extensive power line infrastructure already in place, this technology would allow people in rural and low population areas to access the Internet with little cost in terms of equipment, cables or wires.


In T-line Internet access data is carried over fiber optic lines or copper lines. They are quick but highly regulated and generally intended for business use.

See also


  1. ^ "Can the Internet be a Human Right?", Michael L. Best, Human rights & Human Welfare, Vol. 4 (2004)
  2. ^ "Declaration of Principles", WSIS-03/GENEVA/DOC/4-E, World Summit on the Information Society, Geneva, 12 December 2003
  3. ^ Estonia, where Internet access is a part of human rights, Colin Woodard, Christian Science Monitor, 1 July 2003
  4. ^ "Top French Court Declares Internet Access 'Basic Human Right'", The Times of London, 12 June 2009
  5. ^ Sarah Morris (Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:26pm EST). "Spain govt to guarantee legal right to broadband". Reuters. 
  6. ^ "Finland makes 1Mb broadband access a legal right", Don Reisinger, CNet News, 14 October 2009
  7. ^ Constitution of Greece paragraph 5A explains that everyone has a right to participate in the information society and that the state has a responsibility to assist in the advancement of the information society.
  8. ^ "The lives of Asian youth", Change Agent, August 2005
  9. ^ a b Amir Hatem Ali, A. (2011). "The power of social media in developing nations", Human Rights Journal, Harvard Law School, Vol. 24, Issue 1 (2011), pp. 185-219
  10. ^ Wattal, S.; Yili Hong; Mandviwalla, M.; Jain, A., "Technology Diffusion in the Society: Analyzing Digital Divide in the Context of Social Class", Proceedings of the 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS), pp.1-10, 4-7 January 2011, ISBN: 978-0-7695-4282-9
  11. ^ a b c McCollum, S., "Getting Past the 'Digital Divide'", Teaching Tolerance, No. 39 (Spring 2011), pp. 46-49, and Education Digest, Vol. 77 No. 2 (October 2011), pp. 52-55
  12. ^ Naveen Bisht; James Connor. "Broadband to the Home: Trends and Issues". Broadband Services, Applications, and Networks: Enabling Technologies and Business Models. International Engineering Consortium. p. 1. ISBN 9781931695244. 
  13. ^ a b c d e "How Broadband Works", Chris Woodford, Explain that Stuff, 20 August 2008. Retrieved 19 January.
  14. ^ "How does satellite Internet operate?", How Stuff Works, Retrieved 5 March 2009.

External links

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