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 in July, every person in the country will have the legal right to an Internet connection of at least 1 megabit per second.
It's the first country in the world to make broadband Internet access a legal requirement. Communications Minister Suvi Linden tells Weekend Edition host Liane Hansen it's part of Finland's effort to develop an information society.
"We decided that broadband connections are no longer this kind of luxury product and just for entertainment," she says. As online banking and other Internet services become widespread, Linden says speedy access for all of Finland's 5 million people is a necessity.
The new law requires telecom companies to start providing high-speed services across the country. Finland's five million-plus people will still have to pay a monthly fee for that access, but Linden says the price of a broadband connection is fairly low. And, she adds, it's optional. "It's not compulsory for anyone to have a connection."
The new law is a good deal for the nation's telecom companies, too, Linden says. It will improve infrastructure and open new opportunities for online services. "I think that in the long term, they will profit on this system," she says, "even though, of course, they weren't very happy about it."
And this is just the start, Linden says. An even more ambitious goal is planned for 2015 -- a 100-megabit connection.