A German federal court this week ruled that consumers have the right to monetary compensation whenever their internet service is interrupted. In what German media outlets are calling a "landmark" ruling, a judge at the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe determined that the internet is an "essential" part of life, echoing similar decisions from courts in France and Finland.

The ruling, issued Thursday, came in response to a complaint filed by a citizen who was unable to use his DSL internet connection for two months between late 2008 and early 2009. The plaintiff's provider had already provided compensation for the interruption in landline and fax services, but the man claimed that it wasn't enough, arguing that he should be compensated for the loss of internet service, as well.

The internet as basic human right

Germany's highest court agreed, claiming that the internet's value to that of a car. "The Internet plays a very important role today and affects the private life of an individual in very decisive ways," the court said. "Therefore loss of use of the Internet is comparable to the loss of use of a car."

Germany isn't the first country to declare the internet as a fundamental part of civilian life. In 2009, France's Constitutional Council ruled that internet access is a basic human right, undermining the country's controversial HADOPI anti-piracy law. Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications adopted a similar stance later that year, when it announced plans to provide every citizen with a 100Mb broadband connection by the year 2015 — something the country described as a legal right.