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First nation makes broadband access a legal right

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Finland: Internet access a legal right
  • Minister: Reasonably priced broadband connection will be everyone's basic right in Finland
  • Finland is one of the world's most wired nations, corporations include telecommunications giant Nokia
  • European Union: 80 per cent of broadband lines in EU have download speeds of two mbs-plus

(CNN) -- Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband internet access a legal right for all citizens.

The legislation, which came into effect Thursday, forces telecom operators to provide a reasonably priced broadband connection with a downstream rate of at least one megabit per second (mbs) to every permanent residence and office, the Finnish government said in a statement.

"From now on a reasonably priced broadband connection will be everyone's basic right in Finland," said Finnish communications minister Suvi Linden. "This is absolutely one of the government's most significant achievements in regional policy and I am proud of it.

"I hope that people will make use of the opportunity and turn to telecom operators in the area they live."

The "universal service obligation" as it is known means broadband access is considered a staple commodity alongside services such as telephone and postal services, according to the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (FICORA).

FICORA said it had assigned 26 telecommunications companies as universal service providers across the nation. It said a monthly fee of Euros 30 to 40 (around $37 to $47) would be reasonable in most cases.

Finland is one of the world's most wired nations, and numbers corporations such as telecommunications giant Nokia among its successes.

Laura Vilkkonen, legislative counselor for the Ministry of Transport and Communications, told CNN in October 2009 that 95 percent of the population has some form of internet access.

Statistics released by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) for December 2009 put broadband penetration in Finland at 26.7 percent, compared to 26.4 per cent for the United States. The Netherlands and Denmark ranked equal first at 37.1 percent each.

A report issued by the European Union in November last year stated that 24 percent of the EU population had a broadband access line subscription in July 2009.

It added that 80 per cent of broadband lines in the EU had download speeds of two mbs or greater.

Simon Hooper and Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report


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