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Tuesday
Nov032009

Broadband access furthers free markets and the United States is behind the curve

I spent the last two weeks in Estonia enjoying the free WiFi on my iPhone throughout the capital of Tallinn, including hotspots on the street to guarantee coverage literally everywhere. Finland last month already announced a 100 megabit per second broadband connection to be a legal right. Now today Techcrunch reports that Sweden has announced a new broadband strategy that promises that same level of connection to 90% of Swedish homes in the next decade (a much better policy than publishing personal tax data).

Northern Europe has it right. The internet opens up markets of opportunities -- from lending/borrowing to e-commerce -- to people otherwise left out of traditional systems. We've discussed online micro-employment opportunities, but the benefits extend to education, health, and the environment. The United States is falling way behind: Pre-arrival in Europe, I couldn't even access free WiFi in the first class Scandinavian Airlines lounge at Dulles Airport. Internet penetration in the United States is less than 75%. It's time to make access a priority.

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