The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government with the sole purpose of regulating cable, satellite, radio and television, as well as wired and wireless communications. According to the commissioner of the FCC, that role does not include ensuring that all Americans have access to the Internet.

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Sometimes you just have to stop for a moment and wonder if this is all just a crazy reality TV show. Sadly, Americans were not being Punk’d by comments made recently in a speech by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly.

In remarks made by O’Rielly in front of the Internet Innovation Alliance late last week, the Commissioner explained his position on America’s right to Internet access. His position, as it turns out, is fairly frightening.

Here’s an excerpt from O’Rielly’s speech:

It is important to note that Internet access is not a necessity in the day-to-day lives of Americans and doesn’t even come close to the threshold to be considered a basic human right. I am not in any way trying to diminish the significance of the Internet in our daily lives. I recognized earlier how important it may be for individuals and society as a whole. But, people do a disservice by overstating its relevancy or stature in people’s lives. People can and do live without Internet access, and many lead very successful lives. Instead, the term “necessity” should be reserved to those items that humans cannot live without, such as food, shelter, and water.

Right about now is an appropriate time to insert a facepalm.

Can a human being survive without food and water? No. Can a human survive without the Internet? Of course. The question that should always be on the FCC’s mind, however, is should an American have to survive without the Internet?

Whether or not you believe Internet access to be a “basic human right” or a “necessity,” there is absolutely no question that everyone’s lives stand to be improved dramatically by having Internet access.

Whether you live in an urban region or one of the most rural areas in the country, the Internet gives you access to a wealth of information you would not be able to access otherwise. And the issues goes much, much further. The Internet makes searching and applying for jobs much easier, allows people to attend college remotely, allows people to communicate with loved ones across the world, and puts an endless array of technologies at the user’s fingertips.

The Internet might not be a “basic human right,” but the FCC’s job isn’t to regulate food, shelter or water. It’s to regulate communications and, perhaps, to help ensure that Americans have access to them.

O’Rielly’s full speech can be read in this PDF.

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