One of the politicians responsible for making Finland the first country in the world to entitle every one of its citizens with high-speed Internet access is coming to Canada to inspire politicians in the Great White North to do the same.

As Finland’s communications minister, Suvi Linden helped pass legislation last year which enshrined a 1 megabit per second broadband connection as a fundamental right for the entire Nordic country. As part of the plan, the country will also be working toward a goal of a 100 Mbps connection for all Finland citizens by 2015.

The ambitious move, which will be detailed by Linden at the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance’s iCanada Advisory Board Meeting next month, means Finnish telecom companies will have to connect all Finns to the Internet via fiber-optic or cable networks.

“This was one of the easiest political decisions we’ve ever made,” Linden told ComputerWorld Canada, adding that even the opposition party supported the decision.

Linden’s advice for Canadian politicians was simple.

“Each country has its own way to do it, but the goal should be the same if you really want to push forward the information society,” she said.

One suggestion, Linden said, was to create legislation that allocates wireless frequencies. In Finland, for example, 900 MHz spectrum used for GSM was also opened up to 3G services in rural areas.

Linden added that Finland was able to push the legislation through with no public funding because Finnish telecom companies were already fairly close to providing the minimum speeds for all citizens.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released a national broadband target which advises telecom companies to provide access to broadband speeds of at least 5 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads by 2015.

The CRTC said the target will be reached through “a combination of private investments, targeted government funding and public-private partnerships.”

While Canada’s long-term goals are not as lofty as Finland, the CRTC said that 95 per cent of Canadian households currently have access to Internet download speeds of at least 1.5 Mbps, with 80 per cent already reaching 5 Mbps.

Still, Barry Gander, executive director of the CATAAlliance, hopes that Linden’s appearance will garner more interest and discussions relating to Canada’s worldwide standing in high-speed broadband coverage.

“We can go back and forth and say that Canada is 10th place or 15th place, but the only inarguable thing is that we’ve been sliding,” he said.

“We really have to come to grips with what we’re doing and this has to be at the national policy level,” Gander added, saying that he supports federal funding to augment the costs of building out such an expansive network.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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