For those of you that have been following Chip Chick lately, you probably know that I spent an amazing week in Finland profiling Nordic startups and Finnish culture with a group of BADASS bloggers from around the world. So I was clearly excited when I saw that Finland was in the headlines today! The Finnish government announced that it would be the first country to provide broadband Internet to the entire nation by law: all 5.5 million of them. According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the law states that by July 2010, each person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabyte broadband connection, and by 2015 it will be more like a 100MB broadband connection. So basically, by 2015, Internet access will be available throughout the country to all its inhabitants. Although the broadband will not be for free, it will be available if you choose to cash in.
My first reaction was – sweet, how forward thinking of them! But once I started reading other people’s reactions to the story, a few other questions came to mind like, how? Why should the government take the time and effort to implement broadband throughout the country? Is it a trivial waste of time and money? When considering this debacle, I turned to Ville Vesterinen, Finnish Editor and Co-Founder of Arctic Startup, a website and information source that focuses on technology start-ups and growth entrepreneurship in the Nordic and Baltic countries. When I asked Ville (pronounced Vill-lay) his thoughts on the matter and what implications the law may have, he responded:
Well functioning Internet access – which today means Broadband access – will be one of the corner stones of our equalitarian society in the future and comparable to the universal suffrage in importance. The first European country to introduce women’s suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland. Finnish women got the right both to vote (universal and equal suffrage) and to stand for election in as early as 1906. Today Finland is again among the first to advance the principles of a truly egalitarian society. Well functioning Internet access should be a birth right in every modern country.
What Ville helped me understand is that there is so much more to this decision than just a Finnish nerd’s dream of 100 MB of broadband. It’s about the wealth of information and connectivity that the Internet provides. This form of Finnish “egalitarianism” is more about leveling the playing field and providing everyone with the same tools to succeed, if they choose to use them. I wonder if perhaps when universal suffrage was announced whether people had the same type of reaction; How? Why? Is this a waste of time and money? The Finnish government not only recognizes the value of the Internet, but sees it as an invaluable resource, one that its people should not, and will not go without.