Finland makes broadband universal
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12:32 Mecca time, 09:32 GMTFinland makes broadband universal
The universal access begins on July 1, as the internet is "no longer just for entertainment" [AFP]
Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband internet access a legal right for every citizen.
As of Thursday, internet service providers are legally obligated to provide each Finn with the right to access 1Mbps (megabit per second) in broadband capacity.
"We have a digital agenda and we are pushed to offer more services in the internet," Suvi Linden, Finland's communications minister, told Al Jazeera, adding that government services would suffer if all Finns were not connected.
Analysts believe that up to 99 per cent of Finns are already online, with connectivity especially important in Finland's sparsely populated rural regions.
Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee, reporting from Finland, said: "It is hard to think of any other country outside Scandinavia which could have either the political or philosophical will to demand the best available service for every one of it people."
No other nation has yet issued a legally binding ruling on universal internet access, although the UK government has promised to connect all homes with at least 2Mbps by 2010.
Spain has said it will introduce a plan next year to allow citizens to buy at least 1Mbps of broadband at a regulated price, and telecommunications companies will be required to make the "universal service" available to everyone, no matter where they live.
'Headache' for companies
Companies in Finland have said the new law represents a major headache with small benefits, as just 4,000 Fins do not currently have broadband access in a population of 5.5 million, while a few thousand more do not have guaranteed high speed service.
"We are talking about tens of millions of euros," Ahti Martikainen, a spokesperson for TeliaSonera, Finland's biggest broadband provider, said.
Infrastructure for connecting remote residents is especially pricey.
"For one single person, it might costs hundreds of thousands of euros. This makes no economic sense, it can be a nightmare," Martikainen.