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Finland government declares legal right to broadband Internet access

[JURIST] Finland's Ministry of Transport and Communications [official website, in Finnish] announced Wednesday that broadband Internet access would become a legal right [press release, in Finnish] for all citizens. Becoming the first country to institute such a policy, the agency declared that Internet providers must afford everyone a connection that is at least one megabyte per second. Communications Minister Suvi Linden said that the required minimum would improve the quality and availability of connections in sparsely populated areas and contribute to rural vitality. Additionally, the agency hopes that the requirement will improve business by enabling electronic transactions. As of last year, out of a population of more than 5.2 million, there were approximately 4.35 million Internet users [statistics text] and 1.6 million broadband subscribers in Finland. The policy will take effect in July 2010.

While Finland is the first country to require broadband connections for its citizens, the right to Internet access recently became an issue in France with respect to Internet piracy legislation [JURIST news archive]. In September, the French Parliament gave final approval [JURIST report] to the latest version [text, in French] of the piracy bill, which aims to take away Internet access for third-time offenders. The French bill was originally struck down [judgment, in French; JURIST report] by the Constitutional Council [official website, in French] in June on the grounds that Internet access was a right that could not be taken away at the discretion of an administrative authority. The new version of the bill leaves suspension of access up to a judicial determination. The opposition Socialist party, who brought the initial suit, will continue to challenge [Reuters report] the legislation.

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