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Finland Declares Broadband A Legal Right

Gordon Kelly


Finland Declares Broadband A Legal Right

Here's an interesting development which will scare the living daylights out of every ISP...

Finland has become first country to enforce broadband as a legal right for every citizen. Beginning today a USO (universal service obligation) guarantees in law that every Finn receives a 1Mbit broadband connection.

"We considered the role of the internet in Finns everyday life," said Finnish communication minister Suvi Linden. "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."

Building on this the Finnish government has also vowed to ensure everyone has a 100Mbit broadband connection by 2015, while it has already gotten 96 per cent of its population online. These figures dwarf the 2Mbit minimum connection speed the UK government is aiming for by 2012 as part of Digital Britain, as well as yesterday's news that 38.8m (roughly two thirds) of UK dwellers are now online.

Interestingly, it was the BBC who commissioned a huge GlobeScan survey in March across 26 counties and polling more than 27,000 adults to find four out of five see Internet access as a fundamental human right. Despite this only Estonia has so far declared its intentions to follow in Finland's path.

The counter argument is Britain - with a 60m population compared to the 5.3m of Finland and 1.3m of Estonia - has a much tougher job on its hand to fulfil such idealistic scenarios. That said these positive initiatives will do little to stem the already read hot topic of Britain's Broadband Backlash...

Source: BBC News


July 1, 2010, 8:01 pm

A Basic human right? Really? Along the same lines as food, clean air, housing etc?! Really?!

I'm all for a decent internet connection, but declaring it a "Human Right" not only seems ridiculously OTT, but actually cheapens other, very real, human rights by rating it as the same level of importance.


July 1, 2010, 9:22 pm

It's a legal right in the same way that mains Electricity/Landline/Dial up is here.


July 1, 2010, 9:27 pm

@TheEvilGenius - I suspect when it comes to things like kids' homework, course materials being distributed online and over email, online job applications then these days you could argue being offline is a fundamental disadvantage that compromises certain equalities of opportunity. But yes, it's a stretch...


July 1, 2010, 9:42 pm

"...then these days you could argue being offline is a fundamental disadvantage that compromises certain equalities of opportunity. But yes, it's a stretch..."

The same could be said of a drivers' license but we all know a drivers' license is a privilege and not a right.

I mean this is so stupid, Internet isn't a human right. There are people that live without electricity for Gods' sake!

Human rights are things like: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, right to vote and so on.

Just goes to show you the huge disconnect between the western world and the rest of the world where people are still fighting and dying for the aforementioned rights.

Rant over.

P.S. Happy Canada Day!

Hamish Campbell

July 1, 2010, 10:02 pm

I've read the argument that things work pretty well for electricity, telephones etc without making them a legal right. Seems it should fit in nicely there too. However, if Finland has already set these as legal rights then it sounds fair enough to add net access.


July 1, 2010, 10:45 pm

As far as I can see the Finns just made it a "legal right", it was the BBC who upped it to human rights status. So they probably won't be demanding UN troops for lack of Wi-Fi.

I applaud this. It now goes according with electricity, running water, public schools, healthcare or a TV set, all things that are citizen rights in various social democracies. And all things that a lot of people in the 3rd world are missing, but they are not the benchmark for living standards, are they.


July 1, 2010, 11:14 pm

What this is stating that everyone will be able to receive a 1Meg connection wherever you live. You will still pay for it.

The Universal Service Obligation in the UK is 28.8K This is a Legal right in the UK, as is the provision of a phone line at a reasonable cost. Does it cost BT £130 (Or whatever it is now) to run cable to a new property some distance from anywhere else? No, I suspect that would barely buy the cabling.


July 1, 2010, 11:35 pm

I think it should be a legal not human right, however I think that the vast majority who actually NEED the internet will already have it and that many of these lines will be laid to people who have no intension of using them. None the less I think its very important that this happens since we aren't still at the start of the 21st century now.

@ Tim ; I have to disagree education, healthcare and running water must be the benchmark for basic living standards in the 21st century. This is sadly an aspiration since many do not have these basics. A TV set and internet is not necessary however.


July 2, 2010, 12:35 am

Legal right and human right are completely different matters. Do some research to tell them apart. One nation even can't declare basic human rights; it's the job of the United Nations.

And as Mattj says, it simply means that the network companies must offer coverage in the entire country, not that they have to supply the connections for free.


July 2, 2010, 1:13 am

so while they declare it a right, we are merrily passing laws to make it easy for media companies to remove our access, I think I know which one I support.


July 2, 2010, 1:55 am

All seems very sensible and fair to me; legal right that is, not a human right. So it falls in line with other utilities required to live and function within a modern society today.

Can't see the US or the UK adopting it any time soon, but at least it's far more progressive than the second amendment!


July 2, 2010, 2:13 am

The difference between human rights and legal rights is sadly lost on Daily Mail types, but honestly there's no point explaining such niceties to the jerking knee brigade. They already can't tell the difference between rights under European law, the Universal Declaration, basic rights going back to the Magna Carta, health and safety legislation and political correctness. As far as they're concerned it's all a big conspiracy by wishy-washy liberals to impose Sharia law or allow paedophiles to roam the streets. They will seize on absolutely any excuse to declare that it's "political correctness gone mad" and therefore all our rights should be abolished.

In other words, in this situation perhaps the word "right" should be avoided altogether, to be replaced with "guarantee", or another word which does the job without causing people to lose all sense of reason and start frothing at the mouth... ;)


July 2, 2010, 2:20 am

Through this Finland could cut on things like government publications and other stuff connected with informing/educating citizens, which is one of its primary obligations. It might be rather "a right to access {essential governmental} information" rather than "a right to dl pron".


July 2, 2010, 2:45 am

That's it. I'm moving to Finland.


July 2, 2010, 7:19 am

In a bit more detail: the new Finnish law basically states that an internet connection of at least 1M must be provided everywhere in the country where there is permanent private residence, or companies. And this has to be provided at reasonable prices, either by using landlines or wireless broadband.

But as some of you have already stated, this internet connection will still only be available for those who choose to pay for it.

Have a good one!!


July 2, 2010, 4:29 pm

I don't imagine there are many homes in the UK that can't already get either 1Mbps+ over ADSL, or over satellite broadband such as Tooway (3.6Mbps).

So in practical terms the 1Mbps commitment doesn't sound all that revolutionary. (Unless it guarantees delivery at a set price.)

Curious, though, to see where they go with the 100Mbps planned for 2015. Is that also going to be a "legal right"? Can the technology and telcos cope? If they can deliver 100Mbps to the frozen wildernesses of Lapland then that doesn't leave BT with many excuses.

James McMorine

July 3, 2010, 2:36 am

@simonm there as still quiet a lot of homes in the UK that still can't get 1mbps. Mainly those who live in the countryside. I live near Cheshire oaks, but I can't get anymore than 100kbps! It's a joke!


July 3, 2010, 12:44 pm

James... I know some folk can't get 1Mbps over ADSL, but you can get it over satellite, now. And Avanti is promising 8Mbps for £25/month later this year, after HYLAS 1 launches. More expensive than ADSL, and probably with a nasty upfront cost, but that would satisfy a "legal right" to broadband.

More interesting is how they go about trying to deliver 100Mbps - does fibre-to-the-cabinet make it practical (if expensive) to serve isolated hamlets miles from the exchange?

James McMorine

July 3, 2010, 9:23 pm

@simonm I have looked at the possibility of satellite, but once you pay for the equipment and installation its around £500 or £600! Thats from what Ive found when looking.

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