Finland makes broadband a legal right, shouldn’t Ireland?
Finland might have the highest alcohol prices in Europe (Ireland is second highest) but at least it has its priorities straight when it comes to the digital economy.
New legislation passed by the Finnish government means that from today all Finns have a legal right to access at least a 1 megabit per second (Mbps) broadband connection and this means that Finnish ISPs will be legally obliged to provide this option to all citizens.
This new legislation has its roots in a December 2008 policy review by the Finnish government, in which two aims were set for the development of broadband connections: a downstream rate of 1Mbps by 2010 and 100Mbps by 2015.
As this broadband access was defined as a universal service, all telecom operators were subject to a universal service obligation to provide 1Mbps to permanent residences and business offices at a reasonable price by 1 July 2010 at the very latest.
Finland's Communications Minister Suvi Linden told the BBC: "Internet services are no longer just for entertainment. Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access."
Currently, Finland is one of the best-connected countries worldwide, with 96pc of citizens online.
So where does Ireland fit into this spectrum? Certainly not second to Finland, as it does when it comes to paying through the nose for beer, wine and spirits.
Ireland Offline research results
As first brought to light by broadband campaign group Ireland Offline, recent results published by test metric company Ookla after carrying out 1.5 billion individual broadband speed tests worldwide tested 800,000 points in Ireland alone and the results found that Ireland came 41st in terms of download speeds and 63rd for upload speeds.
In the EU27, the only countries lagging behind Ireland now are Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus, which leaves Ireland distinctly lacking in terms of broadband speeds for a knowledge economy.
The survey found that in terms of broadband quality, Ireland is in 65th place, with only seven countries including Egypt, Kenya, Iran and Lebanon doing worse on this front. Every other EU member country including developing economies Serbia, Albania and Muldova, has better broadband quality than us based on this extensive testing. (Note: the tests are conducted by the end user from their own computer or smartphone).
Munster MEP Alan Kelly feels Ireland should review its broadband strategy and follow Finland's example in order to ensure decent broadband for all Irish citizens.
"Ireland lags way behind the rest of Europe when it comes to broadband and the problem is worst in rural areas. I am urging Communications Minster Eamon Ryan to be ambitious in his future plans for broadband and make the digital economy his No 1 priority," said Kelly.
No broadband, no smart economy?
He went on to say that without ubiquitous broadband, Ireland will struggle to attract the kind of companies it needs for the smart economy the Irish talk about so much.
"The lack of high-speed broadband is acting as a barrier to new enterprise development in rural Ireland. High-speed access would allow indigenous, high potential start-up enterprises to thrive in rural Ireland, creating much-needed employment and commercial activity."
Ireland currently has what I call 'Bebo and Facebook' broadband. We are suffering with speeds that allow people to check emails and carry out very basic functions but nowhere near the levels required to drive a smart economy," added Kelly.