|Photo credit: © AFP
Finland has become the first country in the
world to make broadband a legal right for all
its citizens, entitling them to a one megabit
per second broadband connection now, with
a 100-Mbit/s connection to become a right by
the end of 2015.
From 1 July 2010, all Finns are entitled to a one
megabit per second (Mbit/s) broadband connection.
In October 2009, Finland’s Ministry of Transport and
Communications had announced that the country’s
Communications Market Act had been amended to
include Internet access of 1 Mbit/s as part of the universal
service obligations and as a legal right and that
the amendment would become effective in the summer
of 2010. At least 30 countries worldwide (developed
and developing) have included broadband
as part of their definition of universal service/access.
But Finland is the first to take this one step further
by recognizing broadband as a universal legal right.
The amendment entered into force on 1 July 2010,
making Finland the first country in the world to enact
a law that makes broadband access a “guaranteed
right”. Broadband access will now be included in
basic communication services, such as telephone or
postal services. An estimated 95 per cent of Finland’s
population of around 5.3 million is already online.
Suvi Lindén, Finland’s Minister of Communications
welcomed the new law: “From now on, a reasonably
priced broadband connection will be everyone’s basic
right in Finland. This is absolutely one of the government’s
most significant achievements in regional
policy and I am proud of it”, she said.
The law means that telecommunication operators
recognized as universal service providers must
be able to provide every permanent residence and
business office with access to “a reasonably priced
and high-quality connection with a downstream
rate of at least 1 Mbit/s”. The new service obligation
does not apply to summer residences. Early this year,
the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority
(FICORA) designated 26 telecommunication operators
across Finland as universal service operators.
FICORA has set up a website (www.viestintävirasto.fi) for Finnish consumers to check which geographic
areas have been assigned a universal service
operator for the provision of broadband subscriptions,
which may be implemented via fixed or wireless
FICORA monitors compliance with this new
What is reasonable pricing?
FICORA estimates that a reasonable monthly fee
for a universal service subscription is EUR 30–40.
Telecommunication operators can also charge their
customers for installation, but construction expenses
must be priced so that residential customers can actually
afford a 1 Mbit/s subscription. So a universal
service provider cannot automatically charge all construction
expenditure to the user — only a reasonable
share of it. FICORA steps in if pricing is unreasonable.
Broadband 2015 project
According to the Finnish government, the one
megabit goal broadband connection for all Finns is
an intermediary step. The government had already
decided to make a 100-Mbit/s broadband connection
a legal right by the end of 2015. It has launched
a broadband project to connect all Finns, including
those living in sparsely-populated areas, to the
Internet with fast fibre-optic or cable networks by
this target date. FICORA explains that the objective
of the project is to ensure that nearly all (more than
99 per cent of the population) permanent places of
residence and places of business and public administration
are no further than two kilometres from a
100 Mbit/s fibre-optic or cable network.
Telecommunication operators are expected to
construct fast connections in densely-populated areas,
where there is demand, on market terms. But assistance
will be needed to raise population coverage
from 95 per cent to 99 per cent in rural areas.
Telecommunication operators will cover at least
34 per cent of the costs. The rest of the costs will
be funded by the State (EUR 66 million for the period
2009–2015), municipalities and the European
Union’s Rural Development Fund (EUR 24.6 million).
Support will be given to projects that are not commercially