Finland: Broadband Is a Legal Right

Posted by: Olga Kharif on October 14, 2009

Come July 2010, every Fin will have access to a 1 Megabit-per-second broadband connection. Finland just became the first country in the world to sign a law that provides every citizen of the country with a legal right to a broadband connection.

The Finnish government had already announced that every citizen should have access to a 100 Megabit-per-second broadband connection by the end of 2015. Now, it took an intermediary step toward that goal. On Oct. 14, the Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that every Fin should have a legal right to a 1 Megabit-per-second connection by next summer.

The move could pave the way for other countries to start looking at broadband as its citizens’ inalienable legal right, akin to freedom of speech and freedom of movement. That makes a lot of sense: Most of us can no longer perform our work duties, do homework or communicate with friends without having access to the Internet. Many Web-based communications and video services, such as Skype, require a broadband connection to work. People need broadband connections to live normal lives, as Finland is the first nation to acknowledge.

Reader Comments

Rainer

October 14, 2009 4:26 PM

No, Olga, peopled do NOT need broadband to live normal lives.

Many are content to never access the Internet. Just because you do, doesn't mean everyone else does. Yes, a lot do, but broadband is a "nice-to-have". It only becomes a "Need" when it is required for work, or some other important issue. When that arises, the person needing it can exercise their freedom of movement and move to an area that has it, and they can pay for it like the rest of us.

It's just like needing a car to get to work. If you don't have one, you move to a place that's close to work, or has access to public transportation. Would you have the government of Finland also state that everyone has a right to a car?

Nothing is ever free. Someone is paying for this. And they're paying far more than what a free market can provide it for.

jonathan

October 14, 2009 7:07 PM

hi yall

Samuel Farmer

October 14, 2009 7:31 PM

Rainer, you are correct. we do not NEED broadband to live normal lives. but then again, nor do we NEED half of our rights to live normal lives, we just have them to live comfortably.
and within the next 20 years, i do expect that we will NEED to have at least a slow connection to the internet.

Samuel Farmer

October 14, 2009 7:31 PM

Rainer, you are correct. we do not NEED broadband to live normal lives. but then again, nor do we NEED half of our rights to live normal lives, we just have them to live comfortably.
and within the next 20 years, i do expect that we will NEED to have at least a slow connection to the internet.

Rose

October 14, 2009 7:45 PM

Just as public television is something of a legal right, the internet will be too. It's bizarre to realize that in our lifetime, the internet will turn TV into something as old fashioned as NPR.

koon-toon

October 14, 2009 7:45 PM

shhhhhh ur annoying

devin

October 14, 2009 8:09 PM

Amen Rainer!

matt

October 14, 2009 8:43 PM

Rainer,


Providing someone with a broadband connection and providing them with a car to get to work is a "terrible" example.....how is that similiar at all?? Relax....its an internet connection....

Dave

October 14, 2009 9:47 PM

First, there is a big difference between needs an wants. You need food, not cable TV. You need water, not broadband. But that is a secondary issue for pragmatists. Morals cannot be based on pragmatism for, if it were, we would have to concede that Hitler was morally correct in exterminating mentally handicapped people in the Third Reich. These people were undeniably financial burdens on everyone so by a pragmatic ethos we would say Hitler was right to do it. But we all know he wasn't. Why? Because NEED doesn't give someone the right to dispose of the freedoms or life of another person.

A people's need for broadband doesn't equate to a mortgage on everyone else's lives. There is a difference between freedom of speech, freedom of movement and the right to broadband. Do you create your own speeach? Yes. Do you create your own movement? Yes. Do you create your own broadband? NO!!! Someone else has to create it and you pay him/her for that service.

There are only three ways that the Finnish government can guarantee this right to all of its people. They can:

A)Use the threat of force to mandate ISPs to provide service to all of its people without being paid (aka slavery)

B)Use the threat of force to mandate that all Finn's must pay some type of tax to subsidize internet service to all people whether they want to or not (aka slavery)

C)A mix of the two via some type of scheme of forcing people into plans, price capping and subsidies (aka slavery)

Whichever of these three paths they take, the Finn's are putting a gun to the head's of innocent vicitms in their own citizenry and forcing them to provide this service to its people.

Give me capitalism any time of day. I want broadband and John Smith is a provider. If we agree on a price, John get money and I get service. If we don't agree on a price, John doesn't get money and I don't get service. No threats, no intimidation, no force; just people dealing fairly with each other.

Mark

October 14, 2009 10:04 PM

I disagree Rainer. Its no longer a "nice-2-have", but an essential service to many around the world. Its akin to the US's Freedom of Information Act. This act by the Finnish Gov't recognises that to be a true information economy in the 21st century, its a waste of time to have phone and cable companies haggle about people's access (net neutrality). I'm very proud of my adopted homeland.

John

October 14, 2009 10:11 PM

Better the taxpayers pay for broadband for everyone than accept the taxpayers bailing out the failures of the purveyors of endless greed on Wall St, as we've done in the USA.

That doesn't sound like a "free market" to me.

z

October 14, 2009 10:55 PM

Poor,poor Rainer.What an obtuse,narrow minded,self-centered,arrogant conservative.How does it feel to be a sterotype sir? How does it feel to know that nothing in your life matters? To know that if you died tomorrow,that no one would notice? That you were so worried about a 'free-market' and your personal greed that life just passed you by. When you die, does your money go with you to your mythical Heaven so that you get a better seat with your make-believe 'god'? Just so sad,that a country tries to better its people with a free flow of information that could and would enhance there quality of life and a guy like Rainer is worried about a profit.What a sick person!

Peter

October 14, 2009 11:41 PM

Broadband a right?

Health care a right?

What is next?

Everyone gets a right to his neighbor's car, home, spouse and children?

I thought that slavery had been abolished a while ago. Now the cable and phone companies which created and own the broadband will be slaves, and so will their shareholders be.

Big K

October 15, 2009 12:56 AM

poor poor z, calling someone ignorant and narrow minded without even knowing anything about. a hypocrtical liberal whos quick to pull the trigger and loives to call people names and stereotypes but gets mad when other people do it, ahh a shallow democrat proves that even with an education they still don't have any knowledge. goodnight folks i will savve you my children.

Rich

October 15, 2009 1:19 AM

If it is government subsidised then I do not want it. Almost everything there is purchase here in Finland where I live is more money than most other places in the world except Norway for instance. It is not a legal right. Mobile phones are not legal rights to have. They are things you have if you have money to pay for them! The people making the decisins on this stupiity are likely stock holders in the the broadband providers or cell phone companies. This will mostly benefit those with internet ready phones I think. Bad idea and more government intrusion. This is not the job of government. The government could do something like make the cost of living lower by reducing the tax burden so more commerece would occur thus increasing jobs and tax revenue by shear numbers of transactions and more people working.

David

October 15, 2009 1:33 AM

To Z, I will not expect that you will listen, but although I have never bothered responding in any forum like this, I will today. If not only to defend Rainer. First, you obviously are just out to label someone with prejudices that you cannot prove. Why, well I can't say for sure, but I often believe that people who suspect others of certain things are often the guilty ones. (For example, a thief suspects everyone else is stealing). This will likely make no sense to you and I am not really trying to do that. I know in the end that every knee will bow, even if someone chooses to believe something else. That's their choice, but every tongue will confess. Imagine confessing how wise you are, then burning in hell. That is what is sda, not Rainer for commenting on an article just as you have. My concern is more of what type of information would be funneled through a goverment run internet. If they pay, it will be their's to run. So, yes it will cost dollars and perhaps more. Again, first post that I ever recall posting, but after the post by Z, I mean c'mon.

Grandswiss

October 15, 2009 4:06 AM

In my point of view Finland is not the first country where every citizen has the right to get a broadband connection. E.g. According to the law in Switzerland on Universal Service, every Swiss has the right to get a broadband connection. However, not 1 Mbps but 0.6 Mbps. But the incumbent has to fulfill that obligation even if you're in a hut somewhere in the alps!

FInn

October 15, 2009 4:30 AM

Every FINN!!!! Finnish people are Finns, not Fins...

Interconnect

October 15, 2009 5:26 AM

Thanks Finland for telling the world adopting Finnish lifestyle/standards. The ITU Telecom 2009 just finished at Geneva Oct. 5-9, 2009 has the same message of broadband penetration. Again the ITU Regulatory Event at Beiruit November 2009 should set Finland as the defacto standard for regulation of Broadband be Finland. Nokia should follow suit with product offerings in countries where the product is sold. China Mobile the worlds largest mobile phone operator has announced monthly mobile internet plan $2.50 per month in Pakistan. Is there any match to this anywhere else in the world. Yes Finland has its free or on the house in Finland. Everyone including Pakistan is looking at Finland for adherence to Finnish standards. eMail: haroon@supertec.com

AB

October 15, 2009 6:44 AM

A big congratulations to Finland!

They are laying down examples that should be followed by every country that wants to participate in a 21st Century 'knowledge economy'.

A 'knowledge economy or a knowledge-based economy' requires Internet access in the same way the industrial age required electricity.

I wish our government would look at adopting something similar.

Mike J.

October 15, 2009 10:42 AM

Welcome to "Robin Hood" socialism where we steal from the rich (who pay the majority of taxes) and give to the poor (who don't pay taxes or pay much less of a percentage). Then when the rich have no money left, their employees will get laid off and the government will have not have a money source.

The industrial age (and modern living) requires electricity, but is it "free" or is it a service that has to be paid for? Answer: you pay for your own usage. Next you'll be saying that electricity is a right and electric companies should provide it free to the people with their cost going to the government (which gets it's funds from the tax-paying citizens).

tm

October 15, 2009 10:43 AM

What's the gain by withholding bandwidth?

http://interimtom.blogspot.com/search?q=big+pipe

Mike McDaris

October 15, 2009 11:30 AM

When technology changes the way we live work and play then that technology becomes a social dependecy (an item that makes the world go round but not neccessary to exist). It develops to the point that it has evolved to atleast a utility. Of course, we pay for utilities and their are subsidies for the poor. At most, broadband is a utility or will be at some point in the future. Does every person have a right to Power, Water and Telephone? Only if they can pay for it. Could society today run without Power, Water and Telephone? I doubt it. Could society run at today's standards without broadband if no-one could pay for it? Not likely. Someone's gonna pay for this and it's going to be the taxpayers. Sounds Obamish ??

LG

October 15, 2009 11:48 AM

Dave is correct. Natural rights pertain to those things you can provide for yourself. Granted rights such as a right to healthcare, right to broadband, etc. are not inherent in our nature as human beings, and consequently can be limited or even revoked by the same authority that granted them in the first place.

With that said, if the Finnish government wants to grant everyone the right to obtain a broadband connection at a minimum connection speed that's their prerogative. Granting a right to have something is not the same as providing that thing. The article didn't mention whether the Finnish government would be paying for everyone's broadband connection or not.

I see three possibilities:
1) Government guarantees that no one can deny you access to broadband service as long as you're willing to pay for it

2) Similar to #1 except that those who want broadband and can pay for it must do so; those who want it and can demonstrate inability to pay will have it provided to them. This would be more akin to everyone having a right to defense counsel if charged with a crime. If you can afford it, you hire your own attorney. If you can't the government provides an attorney for you (at least that's how it works in the US)

3) Government provides the service to everyone and taxes the population through some means (direct tax, fees on services, etc); 2); or 3).

I'd hope that scenario #1 is the one we're talking about here (I'm a Libertarian), but given the socialistic propensity of western European societies my guess is that it's going to be #2 or #3 in some form.

Ed

October 15, 2009 12:41 PM

That's great!, It's like begging kids to go school, if you do not have or can't pay broadband on XXI century, you're a big ignorant.

So all of you up there, want to privatize public schools and libraries too?

That would be not surprising...

You're not fighting terrorist anymore, forget useless dogmas...
Laws are for mens safe and growth, not backwards...

BE

October 15, 2009 12:53 PM

The point to emphasize is offering information access for all citizen's and helping to bridge the divide between the have's and the have not's. Increasingly we live in an information society with a wealth of data on the Internet. Moreover with search engines that help even those that are information challenged. Anyone applying for a job, looking for work, seeking tips for common labor jobs, registering their car, searching for the best prices are well advised to search the web. Sure the Internet is a nice to have. Those that have it are at an advantage to those that do not. Governments can choose to control access to data on the Internet with custom broadband filters, much like some communist countries with TV, however, I would hope that Finland chooses a more open approach. Perhaps the Finland landing page (home page) would post government services (financial aid, healthcare tips etc) to help generate greater awareness for all.

Russ

October 15, 2009 1:09 PM

To reiterate other comments, something should not be called a RIGHT if it requires another person to provide it. You have to have food to live, but you do not have a right to food. Arguably, if someone restricts your access to food, they are restricting your right to life. But to get food, you are still expected to pay for the service (or have someone else pay your way).

We can argue whether it makes sense for the government to subsidize universal access to broadband (which is implicity happening in Finland), but to make it a RIGHT means that someone else must be held legally accountable if the individual fails to receive Broadband.

Now... if we ignore the very profound question of a "Right to Broadband," this becomes a more pragmatic question of government subsidization of infrastructure. Governments already subsidize most forms of travel through roads, rails and airports. There is a strong parallel between transportation infrastructure and broadband infrastructure. But if you CHOOSE to live in a remote area, do you have a right to a paved, 4-lane highway? No, you have to make a tradeoff between living in the wilderness with a gravel road and living the city with robust road infrastructure. Broadband is exactly the same - if you live in a remote area you should have to pay for the huge cost to extend infrastructure to you, or just get buy with dial up.

Toon

October 15, 2009 5:21 PM

In many countries similar arrangements exist to prevent people's electricity, gas or water to be cut off completely when they don't pay their bills.
I can understand the need for a similar deal on (broadband) Internet access. More and more, countries are relying on e-government. People fill out their taxes online, apply for scholarships, even vote in elections. I can imagine that, on the whole, it is far cheaper for the Finnish government to provide basic broadband access to everyone than to provide printed versions of every form to all its citizens.

JLRivers

October 16, 2009 12:13 AM

Reiner, did you mail your comment?

Steve

October 17, 2009 5:30 PM

The terminology used matters little, I think this is a good idea for them, yes someone has to pay and it will cost a lot of money but the benefits are huge. Ok so not everyone uses the internet, but in todays age it is becoming more and more focused and perhaps even being 'pushed' into our day to day lives. For this reason it could be said it is a necessity as all sorts of opportunities open up with access to the internet, the main one i can think of right now is job applications. Governments love this idea and i would suspect that with so many jobs being on-line applications only this could be a governing factor. It also helps with online banking etc...

Lightningchild

November 3, 2009 8:26 PM

all people use the internet for is porn and facebook

Anonymous

March 5, 2010 10:49 PM

Wow. I've never seen so many mis-informed posts by ignorant people. A right does not mean that it is or has to be free. The broadband connections will not be free of charge to the users. People also have a right to health care and education and those also aren't free, man, you are all stupid. :)

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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