The United Nations has declared internet access a human right and criticised "three strikes" laws like that in New Zealand which may see users lose access for repeat infringements.

In a recent report UN special rapporteur Frank La Rue said the internet had become, "a key means by which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression".

That right was guaranteed by article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Mr La Rue said the declaration had been intended to accommodate future technological developments through which individuals can exercise their right to freedom of expression.

"Hence, the framework of international human rights law remains relevant today and equally applicable to new communication technologies such as the Internet."

In his report, Mr La Rue said he was "alarmed" by proposals to disconnect users from internet access if they violate intellectual property rights.

That also included legislation based on a "graduated response", which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as Fance's "three-strikes-law" and Britain's Digital Economy Act.

In New Zealand earlier this year the Government passed The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act which too included a controversial provision to suspend internet accounts for up to six months after three offences.

However in a compromise with Labour and other critics of "three strikes" mechanism, that provision will not come into effect unless the Commerce Minister finds other penalties - including compensation orders of up to $15,000 - are not working.

The law, which comes into effect in September, will be reviewed after two years.

Internet entrepreneur Lance Wiggs, criticised the legislation during select committee hearings said internet access was now a basic utility for most New Zealanders and even a "right" which should not be stripped away lightly.