Why can’t we Finnish what they started?

I was asked to give a briefing last week to the Kent Ambassadors at the Tudor Marriott Hotel just outside Maidstone.  I summarised a series of presentations on food security, on rural broadband, and on Produced in Kent.  On rural broadband, I made the point that although KCC put a huge amount of work into persuading BT to enable many of the exchanges across the county for broadband a few years ago, this wasn’t enough.  Because most of the difficult areas – many of them disconnected rural communities – were left without connectivity, because enabling their exchange was either too expensive or too difficult.

And whereas a couple of years ago broadband was ‘nice to have’, nowadays it’s a necessity.  Most people couldn’t get through a working day without a broadband connection.  And children in our schools use broadband to download learning resources, to research new ideas and to learn from others across the world.  Those who enjoy broadband at home now have a clear advantage over those wh0 don’t.  The lack of broadband in our communities is now causing social exclusion, and it’s unfair.

Which is why I was interested to see the approach taken last week by Finland, which has become the first country in the world to pass a law entitling every citizen to 1Mbps broadband as a legal right (to read the story on the Businessweek website, click this link).

I’d like to think that our new coalition government might start to think along similar lines, but I won’t hold my breath.  And as long as our commercial broadband providers continue to put profits before people, our disconnected communities will simply have to go without.


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