Unless you are a techno-luddite of the first order, the chances are that you would agree the Internet has become an integral part of daily life for those blessed with decent access to the thing. But would you agree that broadband access of no less than 1Mbps is your legal right? If you happen to live in Finland, from today it will be.
Yes, Finland has become the first country anywhere in the world to make access to the Internet by broadband a legal right for each and every one of its estimated 5,313,399 citizens. But the good news for the Finnish does not stop there: as well as bringing in a law that obliges all telecommunications providers to make affordable (between 30 to 40 Euros per month) minimum 1Mbps broadband lines available to all residents, but the government has pledged to increase that to a near universal (well, within 2km of 99% of the population) 100Mbs minimum no later than 2015.
This is, without doubt, a monumental move as far as the right to Internet access goes and puts it on an equal footing with postal and telephone services. It's also likely to be a huge task, practically speaking. Although it is thought that around 96% of the Finnish population is actually already online, which only leaves the service providers needing to track down and supply about a quarter of a million people - assuming, that is, this 4% that makes up the unconnected population actually wants access that is - this will be problematical considering that Finland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. Not to mention that there is a difference between being online and having broadband access, even today. According to OECD statistics at the end of last year, broadband penetration in Finland was just 26.7% (about the same as the United States on 26.4%) so perhaps it will be a big job after all.
Finland's Minister of Communications, Suvi Lindén, thinks it is worth it though, saying "This is absolutely one of the Government's most significant achievements in regional policy and I am proud of it".
Other countries are also doing their best to get faster broadband out to more people. Take the UK, for example, which has a pledge to get 99% of the population on 2Mbps broadband by 2012. However, without any legal clout to force the providers to provide it, just promises such as those made by government ministers to ensure Britain has the "best superfast broadband network in Europe" within 5 years, things are not looking as clear cut as they are in Finland.