Passport

Life, liberty, and cheap broadband?

Finland, yesterday, became the world's first country to garuantee broadband access to all of its citizens as a legal right:

The legislation, which came into effect Thursday, forces telecom operators to provide a reasonably priced broadband connection with a downstream rate of at least one megabit per second (mbs) to every permanent residence and office, the Finnish government said in a statement.

Most of the coverage I've read of this describes Finland as "tech-savvy" or one of the world's "most wired nations." But broadband penetration data compiled by the OECD last December actually shows the homeland of Nokia is pretty average compared to other wealth countries:

 

At 26.7 percent penetration, Finland actually has pretty low penetration for Northern Europe -- well behind its neighbors Norway and Sweden -- and only 0.3 percent higher than the United States, a country with a much higher population, land area, and income inequality. Viewed in this context, Finland's move to mandate broadband access by law is less a demonstration of technological superiority than a way to catch up. 

Passport

Elian Gonzalez gets star treatment on 10th anniversary of return home

On the tenth anniversary of Elian Gonzalez' famous return to Cuba, there's no telling how his Miami relatives are feeling: still ruing the day they let the five-year-old slip through their grasp, or counting their blessings that this week's grocery list need not accommodate a teenage boy's appetite? Ninety miles south, however, there's no trace of ambivalence: in Havana, just about everyone is hailing the day Elian made it back to the island. At a celebration this week to commemorate Gonzalez's homecoming, the 16-year-old guest of honor got the best seat in the house: the one right next to President Raul Castro.

The Cuban government has studiously avoided inflating Gonzalez's star-powered profile on the island, but for all his apparent normalcy (his demure interactions with reporters suggest he's your typical shy adolescent), he appears to have developed an unusual repartee with the country's head honchos. In a 2005 interview, he described then-President Fidel Castro as his "friend" and "father" (which would make him part of the same extended family tree as Hugo Chavez), and he received an approving pat on the back from the Comandante's brother at this week's event.

Gonzalez may be a model patriot -- a communist party devotee since age 14 and a recent military cadet -- but above all he's a model teenager: according to state news agency reports, he "enjoys music, is a partygoer, although not a good dancer, who spends hours in front of the computer or weightlifting with his friends." And if two left feet are the only lingering side effects of being stranded in shark-infested waters, then there might be good reason to celebrate after all...

ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images