A recent survey conducted by the BBC found that the vast majority of users around the world consider access to the Internet to be a right. The speed at which Internet access has gone from a privilege, to a luxury, and now to a right is a testament to how transformative it has been--shaping politics, news, entertainment, research, and more.
While individual users have come to view Internet and Web access as a right, it seems almost ludicrous to consider it anything other than a complete necessity for businesses today. Part of the reason that the current initiatives of the United States FCC are so important is that an open Internet is a requirement for keeping the business playing field level, and access to reasonable broadband speeds is essential for conducting business efficiently and effectively.
The BBC report states "Most web users are very positive about the changes the internet has brought to their lives, with strong support for the information available, the greater freedom it brings and social networking."
Almost four in five respondents agreed that the Internet provides greater freedom, while an overwhelming 90 percent cited the Internet as a great learning resource. More than half of those surveyed acknowledge spending time on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter.
The results from China are quite interesting--particularly given the Chinese government's censorship of the Internet and the ongoing battle with Google. Almost nine in ten Chinese respondents feel that the Internet is a right. More peculiar is that China was behind Japan, South Korea, France, and Germany when it comes to feeling that the Internet is not a safe place to openly express opinions.
It would seem that either Chinese Internet users are unaware of the monitoring and censorship conducted by the Chinese government, or our perception from outside of China is much more draconian than what Chinese citizens actually experience.
More than half of those polled feel that the government should not regulate the Internet. The report claims that 53 percent of users agreed with the statement "the Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere."
While net neutrality opponents might jump on that finding as evidence that the majority--however slim--feel that the government should keep its hands off the Internet, it seems to me that takes the survey question out of context to some degree.
I agree completely that the government shouldn't "regulate" the Internet. However, I also feel that it is within the scope of the FCC charter that it provide oversight and guidance to ensure fair and unrestricted access for all. Had the survey included a statement such as "Internet providers should never be allowed to discriminate against specific groups of users, or restrict Internet access under any circumstances" that the response would have been overwhelmingly in favor of that statement as well.
Fraud was the number one concern identified by those polled. More than 30 percent cited fraud as their most serious concern, while violent and explicit content came in at 27 percent, and privacy came in third with only 20 percent declaring it a major concern.
The survey focused on individual users, but a similar survey of businesses, or IT administrators would probably find both fraud and privacy, or possibly data leakage, cited as primary concerns. The explosion of mobile devices and social networking use within enterprise environments has exposed businesses to a whole new set of issues as it relates to Internet access.
While the BBC survey is touted as a global survey with results from over 26 countries, the United States is glaringly absent from any of the cited statistics and figures.