The government in Finland has made it official: access to a broadband connection of at least 1 megabit per second is now a legal right for the residents of that country. And by 2015, the government hopes to impose minimum connection of 100 mbps to its residents.
Granted, Finland is a small, sparsely populated country and about 96 percent of the country is already connected, according to a BBC report, so the whole legal right thing doesn't bring about any immediate change.
Still, broadband as a legal right is an interesting concept. Increasingly, as the Internet becomes the pipeline for all types of information, its presence in any home in any country is more like that of a utility, comparable to electricity, water or a telephone. And like those instances, the utility is simply available. The service isn't provided. Consumers still have to pay to turn the service on and a monthly bill for usage.
The only thing that's required of the power companies or water companies is to make sure that a home has access to their services. It's not required that they be provided for free. And, the utility companies don't have to provide the products that utilize the services. After all, the electric company isn't giving away table lamps to plug into the electrical outlets.
When you think of it like that, the burden here becomes that of the Internet service provider, which is now required to deliver at least 1 mbps of broadband, and soon 100 mbps, to every resident. Certainly, those providers would pass along their investment costs to their customers. But at least they would be in compliance with everyone's legal right.
And now, when other technologies emerge - whether smart grid electricity or Internet-powered television - the people of Finland will be ready for it, ahead of the curve.
Hmmm. Ahead of the curve on broadband technology, huh? Wouldn't it be nice for the U.S. to be in that tech camp again? Maybe - just maybe - Finland is on to something with this legal right to broadband thing.