Finland has become the first country in the world to declare broadband Internet access a legal right.
It is a view shared by the United Nations, which is making a big push to deem Internet access a human right. In June, France's highest court declared such access a human right. But Finland goes a step further by legally mandating speed.
On the other hand, the United States is the only industrialized nation without a national policy to promote high-speed broadband, according to a study released in August by the Communications Workers of America, the country's largest media union. Forty-six percent of rural households do not subscribe to broadband, and usage varies based on income, the study found. In February, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to submit a national plan to Congress. The FCC says that expanding service will require subsidies and investment of as much as $350 billion -- much higher than the $7.2 billion President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package has set aside for the task.