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Finland: Broadband Access to Be a Legal Right

(Oct. 20, 2009) Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications (MTC) announced on October 14, 2009, that the country would become the first to make broadband Internet access a legal right for all its citizens. Under this policy, to take effect in July 2010, Internet providers must make a minimum one-megabit-per-second connection available to everyone. MTC Minister Suvi Linden was quoted as saying that that requirement “would improve the quality and availability of connections in sparsely populated areas and contribute to rural vitality” and also, it is hoped, “improve business by enabling electronic transactions.” (Christian Ehret, Finland Government Declares Legal Right to Broadband Internet Access, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, Oct. 15, 2009, available at
.) As of 2008, there were more than 4.3 million Internet users, out of Finland's total population of more than 5.2 million, and 1.6 million broadband subscribers. (Id.)

The 1 Mbps threshold set for 2010 is an intermediate step towards the ultimate goal, previously decided upon by the Finnish government, of a 100 Mbps broadband connection as a legal right to be realized by the end of 2015. If mobile phone networks can provide the connectivity, some variation in the broadband standard will be allowed. (1Mb Broadband Access Becomes Legal Right, YLE, Oct. 14, 2009, available at

Although Finland's requirement of broadband connections for all citizens is a first, the issue of Internet access as a basic right was reportedly addressed in France in September 2009, in connection with French parliamentary approval of an Internet piracy bill. A prior version of the bill had prescribed removal of Internet access for third-time violators of Internet intellectual property rights, but in June the French Constitutional Council had struck down the relevant provisions “on the grounds that Internet access was a right that could not be taken away at the discretion of an administrative authority.” (Ehret, supra.) Under the newly approved version of the bill, suspension of access is to be by judicial determination. (Id.)