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LIANE HANSEN, host:

In Finland, the static noise of a dial-up modem and the stress of a slow Web connection soon will be relics of the past. Beginning next July, every person in the country of Finland will have the legal right to a one-megabyte Internet connection. It's the first country in the world to make broadband Internet access a legal requirement.

Suvi Linden is Finland's minister of communications, and she's on the phone from Finland. First of all, welcome to the program.

Ms. SUVI LINDEN (Minister of Communications, Finland): Thank you.

HANSEN: Why does your government consider broadband Internet access to be a legal right?

Ms. LINDEN: We are pushing forward. There is strongly the development of information society. We decided that broadband connections are no longer this kind of luxury product and just for entertainment. But I think in short time, there will be more and more e-services, like net banking and stuff like that for citizens to use. And therefore we really need to have access and possibility to use e-service.

HANSEN: Will citizens have to pay money out of their own pockets?

Ms. LINDEN: Yeah. They pay for the monthly payment for the connection.

HANSEN: What happens if a citizen can't afford this?

Ms. LINDEN: At this moment, the broadband connection, the price is fairly low. Still, this is the option. It's not compulsory for anyone to have a connection.

HANSEN: There's a little over 5 million people in the country and the new law requires telecom companies to start providing this high-speed Internet services across the country. How has the private sector in Finland responded to this new law?

Ms. LINDEN: It's a common project because tele-operators know that since we get the federal infrastructure, it's a good possibility for them also provide new e-services. And I think that in the long term, they will profit on this system even though, of course, they weren't very happy about it. But we have also goal for 2015, we want to provide 100 megabytes. But we start with one megabyte and by the end of 2010, 99 percent of the population is covered by wireless connection.

HANSEN: Suvi Linden is the minister of communications in Finland, and she joined us by phone. Thank you very much.

Ms. LINDEN: Thank you.

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