[teleclick] The government of Finland has passed a law, effective today, that gives every citizen a legal right to 1-Mbps broadband internet access.
“We considered the role of the internet in Finns’ everyday life. Internet services are no longer just for entertainment,” commented Finland’s communications minister, Suvi Linden. “Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realized not everyone had access.”
The actual number of Finns without access is very small – just 4% of the population, which essentially makes the new law a formality rather than a sweeping reform. And while extending high-speed internet access to this 4% might be a laudable policy goal, one has to wonder if the codification of a new legal “right” is the best way to go about it.
The creation of a new positive right (to use political science terminology) almost always infringes on a pre-existing negative right – that is a right to be free from interference. In this case, Finnish internet service providers will be legally obliged to provide all citizens with a minimum bandwidth speed of 1-Mbps. But bending over backwards to provide high-speed access to everyone could prevent these companies from investing in new technologies or improving broadband networks in areas where they will be most useful.
By creating a legal “right” to high-speed internet access, the Finnish government is seeking to grab headlines and look good on the world stage – not do what’s truly best for its people.
Finland Creates Legal “Right” to Broadband Internet