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.