This week the Internet is abuzz with news from Finland about how they’ve decided that the right to broadband Internet is a something every citizen should have. They feel that it would improve quality of life in their most remote areas, and boost business and Internet banking. This is a huge step, and as the world relies on the Internet more and more, something other countries should look into.
Finland is small compared to the United States, but that’s no reason to avoid the issue. Providing access to the Internet, and at reasonable speeds, would go a long way towards boosting the quality of life in less connected parts of the nation. While many would still not be able to afford it on their own, there would be Internet cafes, and friends, and libraries that might not otherwise be able to supply it. Rather than these communities be cut off from the rest of the nation as we move on technologically, they’d be right there with us.
Finland compared the right to broadband Internet to the right to have water and electricity. I’m not sure quite as important yet, but it gets closer and closer every day. The information it provides empowers people. It helps people keep in touch, educates people about things beyond their location, and provides a place for local information such as garbage pickup, school closings, and traffic. Especially in smaller areas, the Internet provides the ability to shop and purchase products for your home and business that aren’t available locally.
It would be quite expensive for the United States to undertake something like this, and it’s true that healthcare is at least as important, but we shouldn’t let money get in the way of progress. Whether it’s in promoting the Internet, other technologies, science and research, or anything else, what makes a country a superpower is the quality of life for it’s poorest citizens, not money, or weapons. Finland may be the first to mandate speed, but other countries have deemed Internet access to be a human right. The United Nations agrees. The United States may be one of the only industrialized nations that doesn’t, and that’s something that’s unacceptable.
The world is a changing place, with the Internet one of the contributing factors to a more inter-connected world. Providing access to the Internet, and at high speeds, is just the start of what will likely be a long process as the Internet’s role is redefined in society. It’s already one of the most useful tools available to us, and that alone is enough to justify it as a basic right.