freejung - 4:17 pm on Jan 6, 2012 (gmt 0)
I don't think we need a distinct right to internet access as such, I think it falls under the category of "freedom of the press."
We tend to think of the "press" as an institution (also called the "media") but when the bill of rights was written, it was more of a technology than an institution. The printing press was a transformative technology in much the same way that the internet is now. It allowed information to be disseminated much more rapidly and widely. That, IMO, is why there is a separate phrase "or of the press" in the first amendment to the US Constitution -- to make it clear that the freedom of speech extends to the use of technology to communicate.
The same principle applies to internet access. Communication is a basic human right, by any means and using any technology, including the internet.
Of course it is standard practice to cut off communication during a crisis. That doesn't make it right. Shooting protesters is also fairly standard practice for many governments.
It's important to distinguish between the right to do something and the obligation of the government or any other entity to provide the means to do it. Freedom of the press doesn't mean the government has to buy you a printing press. It means the government can't restrict your ability to use a printing press. Huge difference. I do think there are certain basic services (roads being a fairly uncontroversial example) that the government should provide in order to facilitate the exercise of basic rights, but I'm not sure internet access is one of them.