Survey results released earlier in 2010 showed 80% of people worldwide viewed access to the internet as more than a luxury. Most felt strongly having access is essential to
communication and commerce and should be a legal right, not simply a privilege. Finland has become the first country in the world to declare that not only is basic internet access a legal right – but every Finn should receive a minimum of 1Mbps (1 megabyte per second) broadband connection. That is far higher than most commercial operations currently provide in many countries, and while the Finnish Government is not stating access should be tax payer subsidized (or free to low income users), it has set a basic standard which will have resonance around the European Union, and the world.
BBC News – Speaking to the BBC, Finland’s communication minister Suvi Linden explained the thinking behind the legislation: “We considered the role of the internet in Finns everyday life. Internet services are no longer just for entertainment.
Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access,” she said.
It is believed up to 96% of the population are already online.
In the UK internet penetration stands at 73%.
The British government has agreed to provide everyone with a minimum 2Mbps broadband connection by 2012 but it is a commitment rather than a legally binding ruling.
“The UK has a universal service obligation which means virtually all communities will have broadband,” said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Making broadband a legal right could have implications for countries that plan tough action on illegal file-sharing.
Both the UK and France have said they may cut off or limit the internet connections of people who persistently download music or films for free.
The Finnish government has adopted a more gentle approach.
“We will have a policy where operators will send letters to illegal file-sharers but we are not planning on cutting off access,” said Ms Linden.
So, where is Canada? A good question and one that should be put to all political parties, municipal, provincial and federal – each of which have a policy making role in how internet services are provided through business licenses, bandwidth provisions, copyright law, spectrum allocation, pricing – to name a few. Finland has recognized the internet, and the World Wide Web, is the primary communication system for personal, commercial and government interaction. It is beyond email and social media, but is fundamental to the economy – government operations, stock markets, banking, all rely on the same infrastructure, hubs and connected nameservers which supply households with internet access.