Finland thinks so – it’s the first country to coerce its providers into supplying connections for all its residents. Is it time the UK upped its game and followed suit?
Like telephone and post, broadband is now a legal right for all Finnish citizens. Soon each and every one of them will have access to the joys of YouTube, Wikipedia and, of course, Which? Convo.
The country’s net providers are now legally obliged to offer ‘reasonably priced’ connections to every resident – at a speed of at least one megabit per second (Mbps).
Perhaps a little slow, but at least they’ve promised 100Mbps for every Finn by 2015. Us sorry Brits can only expect a ‘commitment’ of 2Mbps by 2012 – a target that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt calls ‘pitifully unambitious’. Can’t say I disagree.
Who will pay for the broadband roll-out?
However, the situation is a little different over here. In the UK, broadband is provided over an antiquated copper wire network, so making the roll-out law would likely incur big cost implications.
Then there’s the fact that 96% of Finnish households are already connected, leaving just 4,000 wallowing offline. A drop in the ocean compared to the near three million unconnected Brits.
So who would meet the bill? Like the last government’s ‘superfast’ broadband tax (now scrapped) the cost would probably be felt by the UK taxpayer. A more relaxed commitment should allow providers to meet (most of) the bill themselves – and hopefully put an end to insane £150,000 fees for rural folk.
Is broadband a basic human necessity?
A big chunk of the UK is on the wrong side of the digital divide, and from Which? member feedback we know that if you can’t find a decent broadband service, you find it incredibly frustrating.
But should it be a legal right? Our broadband expert Ceri Stanaway had this to say:
“Unlike energy and water, broadband isn’t vital to our survival. But in a modern information society, it does make a huge difference. Especially in terms of access to services, better prices and more ways of communicating with friends and family. So we’d like to see the Universal Service Commitment remain firmly in place.”
Thankfully the new government supports that commitment. And they should definitely get cracking sooner rather than later. Though it’s a shame we’ll probably never match Korea’s plans for one gigabit ‘download a film in seconds’ connection. Sigh.