In 2011, a United Nations commission came to a powerful conclusion: access to broadband internet is a basic human right, matched by the likes of housing, sustenance and healthcare. Arguments can be made that widespread access has transformed entire economies while kick-starting others, with Finland even going so far as to command its ISPs to provide 1 Mbps connections to all homes regardless of location. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have similarly ambitious plans, and all three of these countries have one particular catalyst in common: funds.
The harsh reality, however, is the economies that stand to gain the most from sweeping internet adoption are also the least equipped to enable it. In early 2010, the European Bank estimated that a project to roll out passive optical fiber to 33 cities in the Netherlands would cost nearly €290 million. The mission driving such funding? “To stimulate innovation and keep Europe at the forefront of internet usage.” It’s the answer to a problem that could undoubtedly be categorized as “first world,” but consider this: Internet World Stats found that 92.9 percent of Holland’s population routinely used the world wide web in 2012. Let’s just say it’s easier to invest in an initiative that you’re certain nearly 9 in 10 citizens will use.