Governments: Listen to citizens on broadband action

Governments: Listen to citizens on broadband action

Summary: Finland says broadband is a right, alongside gas, electricity and water supplies, and not a privilege. So why are other countries falling behind and lot listening to what their citizens want?

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This week, Finland announced that broadband was "a right, not a privileged" and classified Internet access as important as other household supplies - water, gas and electricity.

The UK however is still fairly firm in its boots that nationwide 2MB ADSL broadband will be rolled out to every house by 2012, yet Finland will be rolling out nationwide 100MB fibre-optic broadband by 2015 - two years earlier than the UK's plans to roll out fibre, according to the BBC.

But to be fair, Finland not only has natural resources which it can still harvest but it also has excellent international relations. Such things as national security are not as high on the agenda as the UK's.

Perhaps then this gives their government a little more to spend in terms of nationwide broadband access; allowing them to provide much faster speeds at a cheaper overall cost, in a shorter time period, unlike the British government which frankly still thinks it has the right to police the world.

Nevertheless, there are conflicting governance issues around the Internet, ironically only a week after the US government relaxed its control measures on how the Internet is run.

The Internet is a right, and not a privilege. It is a necessity in post-modern times and without it the world would crumble. Not only does this show our societal dependency on an inter-connecting network of information but it shows how far we have come.

I believe the Internet should have some governance by entities elected in by the people based on real-world usage.

Take the laws on wireless network access. If someone leaves their wireless network unsecured and somebody comes along and accesses it, that is considered theft and under the UK Communications Act. This is similar to common law elements, such as leaving a laptop or a phone in an unlocked car. Just because the car (in this case a wireless network) is open, doesn't mean somebody else can come and take it.

To me, that makes sense, even though the law is open to interpretation. Cutting people off from the Internet because they shared a file is unnecessary and frankly unethical. A reasonable and proportional fine could be imposed as a result of copyright infringement or illegal sharing, as opposed to ones which are entirely overboard, or a civil case could be brought against the representatives of the item which was shared and justice served in this sense. The former would work better, though.

Nevertheless, it is time governments returned to their constituent grass-roots and listened to the hearts of the communities beating. Forget the think-tanks, ignore the focus groups and don't bow down to pressure from the corporations and industry fiends. Give the people what they want, or ignore them and lose the next election. Your choice.

Topics: Government US, Broadband, Browser, Government, Mobility, Networking, Telcos, Wi-Fi

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35 comments
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  • What Rights are Next?

    If Broadband is a right (gas and electricity too), I nominate the Mercedes S65 AMG as a right. Euro weenies.

    ZD Net, get some real tech people to write on this site.
    txscott
    • Well thanks for that...

      Transport is clearly something to be needed, as
      opposed to desired - which is why all
      economically developed countries (MEDC's) have
      transport networks. How would you get to work?

      But that's OK because you can work from home...
      but what if you had no broadband infrastructure
      in place?

      Now is it a necessity, or is it just something
      to be desired?

      Sure, it wasn't the most tech-oriented of
      posts, but I like to think I make a good point.

      Would you like to make one now?
      zwhittaker
      • How about a right of not being taxed to death?

        Exactly how much tax all the ants have to pay so that grasshoppers can enjoy this right that benefit and so on?
        LBiege
      • Interestingly enough (about your example) . . .

        "Transport is clearly something to be needed, as opposed to desired"

        And, interestingly enough, most vehicles are privately owned and operated. The car in my driveway isn't owned by the government.

        Even if it's something like roads, the government just makes the highways. States make their own state highways, cities and towns generally maintain their own local roads, and residents will make their own driveways and roads on their own land.

        Airline carriers generally own their own planes - the planes aren't government property.

        Transport turns out to be a hybrid system, where both the governments and the people have ownership of different parts of the system.

        There is no need for government to have too much control or ownership over basic infrastructure.

        "Now is it a necessity, or is it just something
        to be desired?"

        Good question. Note that real people live in even third world countries, where you only get the [b]real[/b] bare necessities. Not this glorified definition of "necessities" we like to use in the first world.

        The only real sense I get from this is that you think that "need"s should be handled by the government, and never by private industry. IMHO that's not really the best way to go, because frankly governments have never really proven themselves to be any more efficient at getting the stuff people need to the people.
        CobraA1
        • Agreed however

          Agreed that private companies and capitalism do well in the world, usually, but not allways. However, my government chips in to the infrastructure. We have 160 Mbps Internet here (50 Mbps is the slowest I've seen, while 100+ is the average). The cost of Internet here is $20-30/month. Yup, $30 for an unlimited (as in really no limits unlike in the USA where it's unlimited so long as it's less than...) 160 Mbps connection. So, maybe it's not such a bad idea for the government to at least chip in to the infrastructure, huh? Just look at the UK where they PLAN to roll out 2Mbps connections. That's just too funny. What is that?? Some poor remnant of Arpanet? We're all paying taxes. We might as well get something useful out of it... like a proper Internet service.
          Necrolin
          • @ Necrolin

            I have no idea where you live. But I would like to ask you what the hidden costs (that is to say: taxes) that lie behind the $20-30 per month charges for 100+Mbps InterTubes access? For if the government is involved in funding the network infrastructure, you can bet that *you*, the taxpayer, are actually funding it, along with paying the monthly access and usage fees to your ISP. And those people who aren't using the infrastructure? They're paying for it, too.

            There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL).
            M.R. Kennedy
          • and where the problem

            the society as a whole share the cost . since About every one have internet its a community more-value ( sorry bad translation should be or called added-value )


            there no wrong in that
            Quebec-french
          • @ Quebec-french

            I'd like you (and society as a whole) to share the expense of the gasoline that goes into my car. Are you willing to do that? After all, isn't transportation (like electricity, water, heating fuel, and the internet) a *right*, as some here seem to think it is? The fact that my car is *private* (as opposed to *public*) transportation is irrelevant. It's still "transportation".

            And while you're at it, I'd appreciate some help with my car insurance and the occasional oil change.
            M.R. Kennedy
          • Like I said...

            Like I said I'm aware that this is coming out of tax money. However, tax money can be wasted or tax money can be well spent. Considering that my tax money is being spent on a service that I use daily, and that I'm living in the most connected country in the world, I would argue that this money is well spent. At least I get to see the benefit of paying my taxes instead of my tax money being sent directly into /dev/null... or a great big black hole... never to be seen again. It feels good when the government gives a little back to it's people.
            Necrolin
          • I would prefer...

            that the government not take the money from the people to begin with (except as is absolutely necessary).
            cue.burn
          • Government "chipping in"...

            I'd far rather the government "chip in" to help shore up existing, far more important parts of my country's infrastructure. You know, things like roads, bridges, sewer services, and other very useful things.

            Protection from enemies at home and abroad is also important to me. Conserving our natural resources and wildlife is important to me. There are a lot of other things that the government should be doing, for which I'm (ever begrudgingly) willing to pay taxes.

            But cheap, high-speed broadband access? It's nice to have, but it's well down the list of things that my tax dollars should go to. In fact, it's not even on my "list".

            If need be, I could live without it. I wouldn't be particularly happy, but I'd manage to get along.
            M.R. Kennedy
    • You have misunderstood.

      Its not a "right to have", but an "obligation to provide".

      You're probably asking, what the f*ck is the difference? Well, there is a difference...

      The services are provides by commercial organisations that bid for licences to operate, usual specific regions. These licences are issued by the government, on our behalf.

      Imagine if a telco bid low for a licence, won, and then only supplied service to the most profitable 10% of the population. Not great. The obvious solution is "universal service provision" - meaning than with the licence to operate, comes the obligation to provide the service to everyone.

      Its not a "right to have", because if no-one chooses to apply for a licence, you're out of luck.
      njoho
    • RE: Right to a Mercedes

      But what if I wanted a Maybach instead? Now you're oppressing me with your Mercedes S65 AMG. How dare you try and foist your idea of luxury driving on me! I'm writing my Congressman about this travesty!
      branchman67
  • I agree

    Broadband should be treated the same as electricity, roads, rail lines, telephone, etc. In the US in the past as our country was expanding the government mandated that all areas were to be provided these services. Because of LBJ rural electric coops were instituted so people in rural areas could get and afford electricity. Both state and national govt mandated that rail and bus lines HAD to provide services to all areas. Otherwise only populated areas would have been provided with these services.

    I see no reason why broadband should not be treated the same way. In the case of rail and bus lines no tax dollars were used - but regulations were instituted to require it. Yes, it probably resulted in slightly higher costs for some users but as a whole the entire nation profited by increased commerce.

    Now, the world is a much smaller place. We can easily purchase goods from many thousands of miles away and receive those goods in a very short period of time. We can met and know people from all over the globe. We are truly becoming ONE world and this is how it should be. Only by interacting with others do we become better individuals and thereby better societies.

    Broadband should be a utility - readily available to all at a reasonable price. We, our children and grandchildren will all benefit.
    steeleblue_cactus
  • Because Finland is about more than greed

    The citizens clearly expect that their government actually GOVERN efficiently through regulation and policy to ensure they get value for their tax dollars. The people and the government both appear to see that broadband gives people opportunities and makes the country better (smarter, better infrastructure for business, etc).

    Compare that to North America, where the citizens are constantly suspicious of government, and where it has been drilled into us that when "entities compete, we win". Otherwise, I presume, we would be at the risk of (gasp!) incorporating socialist elements into our government.

    Competition is sometimes good, but competition isn't always good. Sometimes, as in the case of the fire department, it is better for everyone if regulation and law ensures everyone gets a reliable level of service. I guess Finland sees broadband for everyone as a way to make their country better.

    What a concept. Govern the country to make it better.

    croberts
    • Lack of research/depth.

      I'm quite surprised that this article utterly fails to mention existing EU legislation ob universal service provision, which already includes communications as a requirements, and efforts in progress to increase this. The plan was for 2Mb/s minimum, but plenty of people already realise this is too low.

      For those who are rail against provision of communication technology as a basic right, well, you're being a little mislead. The legislation is not specifically to establish these things as a right, but instead establishs that providers of these services must do so for everyone, without prejudice (financial, geographical or otherwise).

      Left on their own, many telcos would surely choose to service the most profitable high population density cites, and the population in rural area would be left unserviced. Already, this goes on - with much faster connections available in major cites compared to smaller towns. The goal is to eliminate these geographical factors - not only is this morally and socially right, but it also ensures we dont create (or entrench) broader regional divisions in wealth, education, opportunity, and health. How is that a bad thing?
      njoho
    • previous post not specifically @ croberts.

      Sorry, clicked the wrong button.

      (Many people do this - so the mistake is really the UI and not mine. When will it get fixed, I wonder?)
      njoho
      • It's in the works... :)

        After months of crying, shouting, raging, moaning, whinging and email bombs, we finally got a much easier sign-in page without any of that craziness which used to fail epically every time you clicked on something.

        It'll get done soon I'm sure :)
        zwhittaker
    • RE: Suspicion of government

      I wonder where we got that from? Oh, that's right, here in America we had a government that had concentrated power (the English Crown) and in the span of 25 years we went from being perfectly happy with our government, to open rebellion because our government wouldn't simply give us representation in Parliment. If Finland is happy with more government involvment and control, good for them. I personally don't care, that's up to the Finnish citizens to decide what's best for them. But here in America, we have learned lessons about the dangers of a government that is too powerful and is unchecked. BTW, which of these two models led to becoming a world superpower and which of these two models led to a nation getting overrun by it's bigger and more powerful neighbor in the 1940s? And yes, when entities compete the consumer wins. Always. It's the first law of capitalism. The problems arise when people within the system figure out how to squash and circumvent competition (i.e. the monopolies of the 19th century), so the system isn't perfect. That just means you find a way to tweak the system so you have just enough gov't involvment to prevent disruption of competition, not that capitalism is a bad system.
      branchman67
  • RE: Governments: Listen to citizens on broadband action

    Finland has an interesting political structure. The elected party may decide to call it a right,but that doesn't necessarily imply it will be law. But there is an underlying fabric within society that suggests some things are "essential" and should be made available to all citizens of the nation. Such things as clean water, electricity, etc are normally in that category. To add the internet is an interesting approach to the idea of what is essential.
    doug.hanchard