Surfing the Web at work is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone, an administrative law judge said in recommending the lightest possible punishment for a city worker accused of disregarding warnings to stay off the Internet.

The case involved Toquir Choudhri, a 14-year veteran of the Department of Education, whose office computer had been used to visit news and travel Web sites.

"It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work," Administrative Law Judge John Spooner said in recommending only a reprimand for Choudhri.

The judge noted that city agencies allow workers to make personal calls if it doesn't interfere with their work performance.

Choudhri's lawyer, Martin Druyan, called the ruling "very reasonable."