Finland makes broadband a right

Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications has declared that access to 1MB broadband is a legal right. This is significant as it recognizes that much of what we do in today's world requires the net, from renewal of government documents like driving licenses to education to access to health services to engagement in the civic process by filing comments and forms with our local and national governments.

It's also significant because the EU is trying to pass legislation on behalf of the record industry that would require European ISPs to cut off your Internet access if you were accused -- without proof or a court case -- of infringing copyright. Recognizing that broadband is a right makes this much harder to square with norms of justice and human rights.

According to the report, every person in Finland (a little over 5 million people, according to a 2009 estimate) will have the right of access to a 1Mb broadband connection starting in July. And they may ultimately gain the right to a 100Mb broadband connection.

Just more than a year ago, Finland said it would make a 100Mb broadband connection a legal right by the end of 2015. Wednesday's announcement is considered an intermediate step.

France, one of a few countries that has made Internet access a human right, did so earlier this year. France's Constitutional Council ruled that Internet access is a basic human right. That said, it stopped short of making "broadband access" a legal right. Finland says that it's the first country to make broadband access a legal right.

Finland makes 1Mb broadband access a legal right (via /.)


  1. Queue flood of people whining about ‘why we cant do that here’ and how slow our internet is, blaming AT&T, Comcast, etc… not realizing America is significantly large and more populated than Finland, making such endeavors much much harder.

  2. So if I live in the Finnish semi-artic, 50 miles from any place on the grid, society should pay the multiple billions of dollars to guarantee me, just me, all by myself in the artic, broadband to my door.

    Internet access is NOT food, clothing, or lodging. It’s not the end of the world to check in with the webby world at the local cafe (as opposed to in your home), or heck if you live in the artic, once a day (via satellite) or even never. The internet does not equal LIFE.

    1. multiple billions? Where do you get that?

      While internet access isn’t necessary for a person to live, it is on the verge of becoming necessary for them to participate in society, and especially in their government.

      Since public participation in government and political discourse is a right, it follows that the means to do so should also be a right. Otherwise we end up in a situation like the early US: Only landowners are represented, but it’s cool, because anyone who wants to participate can just get some land.

  3. I’m not sure how the 3G network coverage is in middle of nowhere arctic Finland, but in southern Finland where I live, you can easily get mobile broadband with an HSDPA modem. The plan I have is only at 384 Kbps, but the mobile operators offer plans up to 2 Mbps, and the modem itself is capable of speeds up to 7.2 Mbps. Broadband access can be had pretty much anywhere that there is 3G network coverage.

  4. Internet service cannot be a right as far as I’m concerned. I only believe in negative rights, which are rights which require others to /refrain/ from doing things to you. Forcing others to pay taxes to /provide/ you with internet service is still force, even though it’s for a good cause.

    Sometimes, causes like these are so undeniably good that we do choose to use force to do grant these privileges to those in need (welfare, schooling, medicaid). But call it what it is (a “universal privilege”, or “positive right” perhaps). Don’t call it a right. This is why i don’t believe in a “right” to health care, a “right” to housing, a “right” to food, or a “right” to internet access.

    /Access/ to internet service is most definitely a right. Anyone who tries to make it impossible for you to get internet (RIAA, MPAA 3 strikes policy) is violating your (negative) rights.

    I’m not trying to express disagreement here with any of these policies or opinions, but I am trying to introduce some important distinctions to guide the conversation.

  5. This is ridiculous. Internet access isn’t a human right. It’s just another ploy by the Finnish government to gain more control over its businesses and to suck up to the UN(im finnish by the way). In the CNN article a Finnish official went as far as comparing it to access to water and electricity. Finland is such a nanny state. If some persons stupid enough to go live in the middle of lapland its there own fault if they can’t get internet. I swear im going to move out of here when i graduate.

    1. Internet access isn’t a human right.

      Here in the real world, many government agencies are now channeling their services solely via the net. For example, I have to use the police website if I want to make a police report. That makes internet access a basic necessity.

  6. To the people that say we can’t do this in the states, I say we can. It would have to be done on a city or state level. I know I wouldn’t mind having a couple cents increase on my state sales tax, if I could log into the internet from anywhere in my city.

  7. The legislation does not mean ‘internet for free’, it means ‘internet for a reasonable price’. Due to the localized monopoly the telcoms hold (because it costs a buckeload of money to draw the cables) and their unfair (un)competetive practises previously, there have been places where you either pay through the nose or have no connection at all. All this legislation does is to force the telcoms not to extract ridiculous sums of money from clients for poor service, as has been the case so far.

  8. “I have to use the police website if I want to make a police report.”

    See, I got this line once, and I said, “I don’t have a computer,” and guess what? I was able to make my report right there to a person! Civil servants, as a rule, are not the most motivated people in the world (been to a DMV ever?), so I’m sure that most people just push people off onto the internet to not have to deal with the unwashed masses that roll into the local municipal building or courthouse.

  9. Good move. Again, it takes a Northern country to show the “developed” world how to do things properly.

    voiceofreason: Try to live in an area where the temperatures routinely go down to -40 in winter, and your perspectives will change. It’s easy to criticize from a warm city with all the cozy infrastructure around; but somebody actually has to live in the rural areas. Can you imagine the world where there are only cities, to which your (and others’ here) apparent “just move elsewhere” attitude naturally leads?

    Especially for older demographics, more common in low population density areas (as everybody younger seems to be eager to move to a city), guaranteed availability of high-bandwidth Internet connectivity means improved access to e.g. health care. Think about the rapidly developing field of telemedicine. Then there is the issue of telecommuting, opening new job perspectives to the inhabitants of remote areas, potentially alleviating unemployment. And the new technological developments, enabled by such infrastructure; the fostered demand then reflects back into the economy.

    There is also the parallel to the right for telephone access.

    For those who argue about costs, wireless is cheap. It won’t scale well for many people at once, but is good as the last mile for the situations with few people far between. For higher population density, the cost of the fiber will easily split between the higher number of inhabitants. The edge areas of such communities then can serve as relay points for wireless for more remote areas.

    Anonymous, October 15, 2009 12:31 PM: You want to move out? Good; one more free place for somebody who actually appreciates that country. For some people, Finland is high on their list of bug-out places.

  10. Jst t clrfy lttl frthr, fr ppl wh hv nvr ctlly hd t d nythng prctcl n thr lvs… With the exception of satellite web access, if you are trying to get internet access up in Northern Finland / Lapland and you want to provide it for that one loner who lives 400 miles from anyone else, just to lay the cable, to the nearest land drop to the web, and then put up a cell tower somewhere near the guy, could EASILY cost a billion $ US, quite possibly more. The cost per mile for laying underground cable in the arctic is VERY EASILY more than 3 Million and possibly more than 10 Million US dollars per MILE.

    So Bob the loner, who CHOSES to live in the arctic should be provided his $1Billion + internet access by the rest of society?

    Anybody who actually believes this is living in la la land themselves.

  11. Hurray for Finland and I really hope this makes other countries (including the one I live in) sit up and take notice.

    I really don’t understand why so many of the comments above seem so … angry. I’m betting all of you really value your internet access, and why does the guy living up in the arctic deserve it less?

  12. Reason folks are annoyed is that the gov’t should not MANDATE broadband. The market should sort that out. That way the average citizen is not paying $1Billion so Bob in Lapland can have his broadband.

    As someone who live with dial-up for many years, I really believe broadband is a LUXURY, not a NECESSITY.

    1. voiceofreason,

      First of all, parroting memes is not rational discourse, Second, typing words in all caps is unlikely to win you any converts.

      1. It would actually be handy if all of those with a “certain mindset” would type everything in caps. Like the bright coloration of poisonous insects and amphibians, it would serve as a warning not to waste time reading…

  13. Gosh to think a big important moderator like Antinous would make such an eloquent point. No more all caps, fine.

    Parroting a meme, what meme? Life exists with, or without broadband. Folks who disagree with that statement live in the tech bubble and probably have little understanding how most humans on the face of this planet live.

    Demonstration of this statement can be found in an article in today’s NY Times which can be summarized as follows:

    “33 percent of American households that have access to broadband elected not to subscribe.”

    Here is the link to the full article:

    1. Folks who disagree with that statement live in the tech bubble and probably have little understanding how most humans on the face of this planet live.

      Your omniscience is also unlikely to win you any converts.

  14. I will never understand why the some people fail to understand how radically technology can revolutionize the lives of people, and advocate that it be denied to those who don’t meet some geographic criterion.

    In the 1930s, it was electricity and telephone service. The US lagged significantly behind Europe in supplying electric power to its rural citizens. The same cry of “let the market decide” who got the benefits of technology were heard then as we hear now. Fortunately, the US finally passed the rural electrification act in 1935 to ensure that everyone got access to those “luxury” technologies. Today, very few people in the US would call electricity or telephone service a luxury, or advocate that those in rural areas be denied access because the infrastructure costs per capita are higher in rural settings.

    Internet service is no different. The internet gives people access to worlds that they not only never had access to before, but were unaware even existed.

    It is especially arrogant to condemn the act of a foreign government supporting its citizenry as stupid. It is highly unlikely that anyone who isn’t a Finn has any real insight into Finnish politics, demographics, or social perspectives.

    As for people choosing not to opt for internet service…there is a world of difference between choosing not to do a thing and not having the choice.

  15. To danlalan and others above.

    I have a buddy who bought a house 3 miles off the grid. The local utility said it would cost $200,000 to extend the power line to his house and there was no other way to pay for it other then him coughing up the cash. This is here in the U.S.

    Do you really believe that the best use of $Billions in public funds is to give everyone broadband, as opposed to say healthcare, basic reading skills, or, I know this is really radical, food?

    As a society we have to prioritize where we spend our funds. We can not do it all. I think spending $1Billion to give one Laplander in Finland internet access (an extreme example, but a valid one) is a gross misuse of funds.

    An intelligent society has intelligent priorities and makes intelligent choices.

    Blindly giving broadband to everyone everyone is wasteful, knee jerk, “technology solves all problems,” naivete.

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