|Topic:||Broadband for all|
|Author:||Ms Suvi Lindén|
|Title:||Minister of Communications|
Suvi Lindén is Finland’s Minister of Communications; she was previously Minister of Culture. Ms Lindén is a member of the National Coalition Party and has been a Member of Parliament since 1995. In Parliament Ms Lindén has been Chair of the Education and Culture Committee, and Vice Chair of the parliamentary group of the National Coalition Party. She has also been Member of the Speaker’s Council, Foreign Affairs Committee, Committee for the Future, Transport and Communications Committee, Environment Committee, and the Finnish Delegation to the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region. Ms Lindén has held positions of trust in a number of organisations. These include positions as Commissioner of the United Nations Broadband Commission for Digital Development, Member of the United Nations Advisory Board of the Digital Health Initiative, Chair of the Ubiquitous Information Society Advisory Board, Member of the Board of the Finnish Cultural Heritage Foundation, Chair of the Vocational Education and Training Board, Chair of the Finnish Cultural Institute for Benelux, and Member of the Oulu City Council, to mention only her more recent duties. Suvi Lindén holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Oulu.
Broadband enables sustainable socio-economic development. Today, broadband networks are a basic utility infrastructure – like electricity. In developed countries like Finland as well as in developing countries, the availability of broadband enables the use and development of advanced digital content and services; it plays a crucial role in the development of an information society. The United Nation’s Broadband Commission works to promote digital development by creating a bridge between the private sector goals and public sector needs for the benefit of all.
In the 21st century, broadband networks are basic infrastructure – just like transport or energy networks. The role of ICT and especially that of broadband has become deeply integrated with various aspects of all kinds of economic and social activities. The future will rely on broadband-enabled platforms. Nevertheless broadband infrastructure has been understood as a self-evident truth only in the rich parts of the world. To pave the road for economic growth in developing countries, there has been an enormous need to stress the importance of universal access to Internet and other ICTs. This is where the United Nations Broadband Commission has stepped in. Good telecommunications access has evolved from a luxury into a necessity. In Finland, citizens require high quality telecommunications access for both work and leisure. We have experienced the first revolution of mobile telephones and Internet access as luxury products and services, but today we face questions of the socio-economic necessity. Consolidating the political will is a key objective in forming a functional and favourable operational environment. The widespread availability of affordable, high quality and high-speed broadband connections – both fixed and wireless – has been a primary goal of Finnish electronic communications policy for a long time. We have focused on four themes: first, competition within and between all communications networks; second, promoting the provision of electronic services and content; third, stimulating demand for broadband services; and, fourth, continuing special development measures in those areas where there was insufficient demand for the commercial supply of broadband facilities. Availability of broadband connections has enabled the use and development of advanced digital content and services and has thus played a crucial role in the development of Finland’s information society. For the reasons explained above, the government has readjusted the principles of broadband policy: since July 1st, 2010, a reasonably priced broadband connection has been everyone’s legal right in Finland. This means that broadband access has been defined as a basic communications service comparable to telephony or postal services. Last year, the Communications Market Act was amended so that the universal service obligation also included a functional Internet connection. The Finnish Broadband Strategy – coordinated with the regions and municipalities – was regularly reviewed and monitored; it really managed to provide broadband access throughout the country. Our next goal is to make broadband connections of 100Mbit/s widely available for all Finns by 2015. In the remotest areas this will also require public money. The implementation of this ambitious objective started this year. Thinking in terms of democracy, the greatest benefit that the development of wireless communications can bring society is to ensure basic communication services for everyone. The starting point of a developing country is totally different than it was for us. However, with efficient ICT policy at national and global scale, it is possible to speed up growth and create sustainable prosperity for both, developed and developing countries. The central challenge is to unite industry, government and civil society in an attempt to expand global access to the Internet, and via that, to information, which is essential for participation and competition. Besides the necessary political will, commitments to growth and to economic development are required to ensure broadband advancement. The Finnish Government is determined that information society policy should continue to be a core element in the pursuit of people’s well-being. The government’s role in Finland is to facilitate the realisation of benefits from technological development, and to provide a favourable operational environment for businesses. Our aim is to create market conditions and a regulatory environment that will encourage the introduction and use of innovations, new services and new business models. We believe that it is crucial to have effective, flexible, technology-neutral and future-proof communications regulations that pay attention to the rapid change of the technological environment. Citizens and businesses alike should be able to enjoy the benefits of this development, but this development belongs to everyone. Broadband needs to be regarded as an enabler for sustainable socio-economic development – not as a goal in itself. Our main task in the Broadband Commission is to promote the understanding of the new realities and opportunities for digital development. Working as commissioners, we should encourage the heads of states and governments to give their societies a mandate for further action and to place ICT at the disposal of all the developing countries. Considering economic growth in terms of communication policy, the opening of competition has had good results in many countries. Well-functioning competition requires fair regulation and strong regulatory bodies. Governments are encouraged to commit to communication and information society policies, which increase the welfare of the users and, at the same time, create a clear and predictable business environment. The benefits of communications markets should be seen in a comprehensive and long-term broadly manner rather than as a means to short-sightedly maximise governments’ incomes from the communications companies. In addition to areas of commercial interest, other means to stimulate broadband, such as public financing, should be considered more systematically. Previous studies have shown that the public-private partnerships are an especially good way to promote the early uptake of broadband services. It is essential to seek new types of partnerships to ensure the widest diffusion of broadband access and service throughout society. Finding new ways to stimulate broadband can also offer alternative incentives for investment. International co-operation in guiding the process in concert with companies and local administration is very much needed. Furthermore, there is a need for investments in technologies that enable innovation and spur economic development in each country. In addition to being the source of innovation, economic growth also depends on the ability of nations to absorb and apply new innovations proved effective elsewhere. One very concrete thing that developing countries have to think about is the construction of basic network infrastructure. In 2009, the Finnish Government expressed its strong support for joint construction of networks. By simultaneously deploying transport infrastructure, water management networks, electric cables and communications cables, the costs for digging may be divided between network operators. Digging to lay cable can amount to as much as 80 per cent of the overall costs of communications connections. No one can be left outside the day-to-day functioning of the information society. If the commercial return on investment is too low to recover the costs of improving the telecommunications network, the state, regions, municipalities and, in some cases, the international community, should step in and share the costs. The Broadband Commission will set forth and execute short-, mid- and longer-term objectives in which clear responsibilities and leaderships are defined; bringing together private sector objectives which generally look for commercially viable options, and public sector-led goals that can benefit from commercially driven initiatives.