Finland has become the world’s first country to make broadband internet a legal right for all its citizens. From the first of this month, every Finn now has the right to access a 1Mbps (one megabit per second) net connection, and the government has vowed to hook the whole country up to a 100Mbps service by 2015.
Telecommunications companies in Finland must now provide residents with broadband lines that can cope with the minimum 1Mbps speed.
“We considered the role of the internet in Finns’ everyday life. Internet services are no longer just for entertainment,” said Finland’s communication minister Suvi Linden in an interview with the BBC. “Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access,” she added.
It is thought that only around 4,000 houses in the country still need connecting to comply with the law, as 96 percent of the population is already online. Homes across the UK have also been promised at least a 2MBps connection by 2012, but the government has stopped short of enshrining it to law.
Both the UK and France have voiced concerns about the implications that making broadband a legal right could have on illegal file-sharers, claiming they would consider cutting off or limiting the internet access for those who consistently offend. Finland will, however, take a more relaxed approach, with Ms Linden claiming, “We will have a policy where operators will send letters to illegal file-sharers but we are not planning on cutting off access.”
In a recent poll by the BBC World Service, three quarters of people across the globe said they believed access to the net is a fundamental right.