With recent developments such as Section 92A and the ACTA negotiations suggesting removal of internet access as a punishment for crimes such as copyright infringement, the question – is internet access a right or a privilege? - is becoming increasingly important for consumers.
After all, the internet has become the prime conduit for information transfer in the modern world. It has replaced, or is in the process of replacing, such former essentials as the postal service, radio, telephone and television information. It provides access to the world’s information and a platform for participation in the creation and management of that information. The Finnish government has taken a stand on the issue, and announced that broadband – internet connectivity of at least 1 megabit per second – is now a legal right for Finnish citizens. “A reasonably priced and high-quality broadband connection will be everyone’s basic right,” Finnish Communications Minister Suvi Linden said in a statement.
“It is our understanding that we have become the first in the world to have made broadband a basic right,” ministry spokesman Olli-Pekka Rantala said. The government says that it hopes to increase the 1 megabit per second entitlement to 100 mps by the year 2015.
The UK government has followed suit by promising 2 mps by the year 2012 (but has avoided proclaiming it as a legal right). The declaration, of course, doesn’t imply that broadband will be a free service. Like other utilities, users still have to pay; however it does put the burden on internet providers to ensure that their product is available to everyone, no matter where they are. Currently 96% of the citizens of Finland have broadband access.