Broadband Internet Is Your Right! If You're Finnish.

Interesting news out of Finland, where new legislation will make 1mbps broadband internet a legal right. Most of the country is wired, but the new law will force broadband providers to extend their networks to rural areas. Says the legislative counsellor of the Ministry of Transport and Communications:

We think it's something you cannot live without in modern society. Like banking services or water or electricity, you need Internet connection.

Rural FinlandOther countries, including France, have mandated internet access, but Finland is the first to set a threshhold for speed. (And they've set ambitious goals for growth, too: 100mbps by 2015) Ban Ki-Moon has made global ICT access a priority, and spoke last week in support of extending networks to schools around the world.

The question of whether high-speed internet access should be treated as a right is one that I think we'll be wrestling with a lot in coming years. Certainly, access to and understanding of the global ICT network is a prerequisite for the success of any child growing up in the 21st century. And increasingly, as more and more services are delivered over mobiles and the web, governments will need to ensure universal access.

We still have a long way to go in the United States, though. We are, in fact, the only industrialized nation without a national plan to promote the spread of broadband. Finland, two steps ahead of us, might be taken as an inspiration...