Spain makes broadband a universal right

The government of Spain is making broadband internet access a universal right, forcing telecommunications companies to provide speeds of at least one megabit per second to all citizens by 2011.

The government of Spain is making broadband internet access a universal right, forcing telecommunications companies to provide speeds of at least one megabit per second to all citizens by 2011.

Telecom companies that are part of Spain's "universal service" system will have to make broadband available at a "reasonable" price to everyone, including people living in rural parts of the country where it would normally be expensive to do so, Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian said in a statement on Tuesday.

The universal service system currently mandates that all citizens have access to the internet via telephone line, fixed phone service, directory assistance and phone booths. Spain's telecommunications regulator calculates the cost of providing those universal services and then splits it among the country's providers, including Telefonica, Vodafone and Orange.

Earlier this month, the regulator announced the total cost of universal service for 2006 was about 75 million euros, with Telefonica on the hook for about 71 per cent. The total cost will go up once broadband is added to the list of services.

Spain's move comes a month after Finland enacted the same rights. Citizens there will have a legal right to speeds of at least one megabit per second as of next year, with a plan to boost that requirement to 100 megabits by the end of 2015.

Both countries ranked above Canada in several recent international studies of broadband prices, speeds and uptake.