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msnbc.com
updated 7/1/2010 1:15:07 PM ET 2010-07-01T17:15:07

Finland is now the first country in the world where every citizen is entitled to high-speed Internet connection, starting today. A similar plan for the United States faces hurdles and will likely take years to come to fruition.

As of July 1, "every Finn will have the right to access to a 1 megabit per second broadband connection," with a goal of a 100 mbps connection by 2015, according to the BBC.

"Internet services are no longer just for entertainment," Finland's communication minister Suvi Linden told the BBC. "Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access."

"Everyone," in this case, is not a big number, with an estimated 4,000 homes that will need the faster wired connection. The country has a population of about 5.2 million, according to the CIA World Factbook.

The Nordic country is among those that get perhaps six hours of daylight during winter months, making a communication resource like the Internet more important to staying sane and connected during such dreary periods.

By 2015, Finland aims to have all Finns connected to the Internet via fiber-optic or cable networks.

In the United States, a proposed National Broadband Plan would make high-speed Internet access available to individuals who need it, as well as to certain health care providers, over the next decade.

In 2009, the average Internet download speed in the United States was 5.1 megabits per second and the average upload speed was 1.1 mbps, according to Speed Matters, a project of the Communications Workers of America.

Efforts are also underway to expand wireless broadband for devices like smart phones and laptops, being used by more Americans. On Monday, President Barack Obama endorsed plans by Federal Communications Commission regulators to free up 500 megahertz of wireless spectrum over the next 10 years to meet the demand.

Some estimates, according to the Associated Press , suggest the next five years will see an increase in wireless data of between 20 to 45 times 2009 levels, reflecting the burgeoning use of wireless devices.

In Britain, the BBC said, the government aims to provide everyone with a "minimum 2 Mbps broadband connection by 2012 but it is a commitment rather than a legally binding ruling."

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