The German Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe has acknowledged that an Internet connection is indispensable for life in the modern world, and that being cut off for several months deserves monetary compensation per day for the knock-on losses that inevitably causes:
The plaintiff was erroneously disconnected and demanded that the unnamed telecommunications company pay for costs that incurred in switching to a new provider. The plaintiff also demanded compensation of [about $67]per day for the period his was unable to use his DSL, fax over IP and VoIP services, according to the court.
The Federal Court, however, awarded compensation only for loss of the internet connection. Compensation for the loss of a fax connection was denied because a fax only enables the user to send text and images faster than conventional mail and the technology is increasingly becoming irrelevant due to the rise of alternatives such as email, the court ruled.
The court’s reasoning for the award is worth reading for its wide-eyed enthusiasm that is reminiscent of the early days of the Web (original in German):
Being able to use the Internet is an economic benefit whose continuous availability, even in the private sector, has for a long time been crucially important for a person’s standard of living. The Internet makes available global information in the form of text, image, video and audio files. Thematically, almost all areas are covered and the most varied quality requirements satisfied. For example, light entertainment files are as readily available as information on everyday issues or highly academic subjects. Because of this easy availability, more and more the Internet is replacing other media, such as encyclopedias, magazines or television. It also allows global exchanges between its users, for example via e-mail, forums, blogs and social networks. In addition, it is increasingly used for the initiation and conclusion of contracts, for serving legal instruments and fulfilling public service obligations. The overwhelming majority of people living in Germany use the Internet on a daily basis. As a result, it has developed into a decisively important medium for the lifestyle of a large part of the population, and one whose failure has a significant impact on everyday life.
It’s great to see courts in Germany and elsewhere recognizing the central importance of the Internet to modern life — not least because this necessarily implies that “three strikes”-type punishments that involve disconnection from it are totally disproportionate, and akin to cutting off someone’s electricity or water supply for months or more.