Today, Finland became the first country in the world to give every citizen the right to access a broadband connection. The country argues that internet access is a fundamental right, pointing out that in an information saturated society, 96% of Finns are already online.
The United Nations, the International Telecommunication Union, and countries like the UK are examples of those who are part of the push to grant greater access to internet. They believe the right to communicate and access information cannot be ignored. Earlier this year, a poll conducted for the BBC World Service found that almost four in five people around the world believed that access to the internet is a fundamental right.
Currently, 75% of American homes have internet access. Do you think that that access to the internet is a government-guaranteed right?
Providing broadband internet to everyone reveals some obstacles beyond the philosophical debate of whether or not it is a right. First, can the US government feasibly provide access to everyone in a costly and efficient manner? For example, since the percentage of rural households who use broadband is 12% lower than that of urban households, internet providers have little motivation to invest in expensive networks for low subscription density areas.
Second, does it make sense to provide access to the internet if people are not willing to subscribe or do not have the equipment to do so? This is akin to having access to cable without a cable subscription or TV. A survey found that, of those Americans who do not have broadband access, 38% don’t want it or aren’t interested and 26% said it was too expensive to subscribe. Only 3.6% said they would not subscribe to internet because it was not available.
Finally, will the government have the right to cut off internet for those who illegally download music or movies? If so, will this law give too much authority on internet usage to the government?