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The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Norway

By attorney-at-law Per-Kaare Svendsen,
Law firm Technology Law Partners

Telecommunications infrastructure

The telecommunications infrastructure in Norway consists of fixed telephony networks (fiber, coax and copper), wireless networks (Analogue and digital mobile), several cable television networks and internal telecommunications networks. The infrastructure covers the vast majority of the country and it is estimated that less than 0.9% of the population do not have access to mobile or fixed communications networks. The estimated number of PSTN/ISDN connections was a little below 2.5 million. (GSM subscriptions were a little above 2.5 mill) [1999]. Several providers are offering digital services. Broadband access lines (fiber and xDSL) to households and businesses are currently being deployed by several companies in the major cities.

Government policy on promoting ICT infrastructure growth

The Norwegian government has increasingly focused on Internet access, broadband services and content. Several initiatives have been made resulting in public reports (Norge Bit for Bit, Convergence reports etc.) Increasingly public information is being made available to the public via the Internet and the government operates a portal1 to public authorities and public information. Updated legal texts have been available online through Lovdata since 1995.2 The government has launched an overall plan called eNorway action plan 2.0 describing several actions to be carried out.3

Percentage of population with Internet access4

More than 1,000,000 households have access to the Internet. Approximately 2,390,000 (53%) persons over 13 years have access to the Internet and of that almost 2 million (44%) persons have used the Internet during the last 30 days and 1,116,000 (24,8%) use the Internet every day. 5

66 % of companies with more than 10 employees have access to the Internet in 1999 (estimated increase in 2000 was 11%)6 and 46 % of the companies had a web page.7

The number of registered subscriptions to various Internet access services was approximately 702,000 in 1999. Private persons held almost 93 % of the subscriptions and the vast majority connect through dial-up access. 89,000 of the subscriptions are free of charge access subscriptions (no charge from the ISP). More than 2,000 of the registered 46,664 business subscribers were connected via a fixed connection.8

Availability of Internet access

Internet services are available via all telecommunications service providers or fixed access services available throughout the country. Several public libraries and most schools provide some form of free of charge access to the Internet for people without their own subscription. Most universities provide PCs with access to the Internet and have in some areas financed broadband network to student housing facilities.

Relevant Norwegian content

Several portals are available in the Norwegian language, several international search engines provide search in the Norwegian language and most major newspapers in Norway have a presence on the web. Several newsgroups under the .no domain are active. In summary it seems fair to conclude that there is abundant local content available in the Norwegian language.

Gender and cultural barriers to Internet access

Statistics show that the Internet users are divided by age as follows: 90% between 13 and 19 years, 80% between 20 and 39 years, 73% between 40 and 59 years and 18% of persons over 60 years. Approximately 60% of women have access.9 The previous division between users with a higher education and non-educated users is decreasing.

Degree of regulation and/or control of ISP's by the government

In line with the deregulations policies and regulations in the EU, there are no barriers of entry for ISPs. Norway abolished all monopoly rights in the telecommunications sector on 1 January 1998 and in general the overall telecommunications regulation must be considered to be among the most liberal in Europe. It must be considered to be relatively easy to set up and maintain an ISP service for new entrants. ISP/ASPs may register with the National Post and Telecommunications Authority. Most ISPs connect to the NIX, which is hosted by Uninett.

There is no ISP specific regulation and ISPs are regulated by the general rules in the Norwegian Act on telecommunications. Other relevant legislations that apply to ISPs are several consumer protection rules, data protection rules and rules relating to responsibility for content. From the 1 January 2000 a new data protection law came into force, implementing the EC Directive on data protection.10 The general notion today is that ISPs (technical providers, caching and hosting) as a general rule will not be liable for content controlled by the users unless the ISP engages in editorial activities regarding such content. A review of the existing legislation will be conducted in relation to the implementation of the e-commerce directive.

The Norwegian constitution secures freedom of speech. A public report reviews the current legislation and proposed amendments to §100 of the Constitution regarding freedom of speech.11 Persons may not be held liable in law for imparting or receiving information, ideas or messages if such information can be justified in relation to the reasons behind freedom of expression, i. e. the seeking of truth, the promotion of democracy and the individual's freedom to form his or her own opinions. Prior censorship and other preventive measures may only be used as far as is necessary to protect children and youth from harmful influence by moving pictures. Censorship of letters may only be implemented in institutions and by leave of a court of law. The issues relating to the responsibility of technical intermediaries for unlawful statements by a user is discussed in the report and the report concludes that the legal situation is uncertain. Some studies have been made relating to the subject of freedom of speech relating to the Internet.12

It is unlawful to examine letters belonging to others as well as to breach the secrecy to be observed in i.e. telecommunications and postal transmission. Telecommunications service providers must maintain secrecy about the content of telecommunications (technical data) according to the telecommunications act section 9-3. The police may have access to such information upon a court order or by administrative order from the National Post- and Telecommunications authorities. Such orders are given as a matter of routine. This does not extend to the content of the transmission, i.e. e-mail, but the police may have access to the content of such transmission under judicial order by the courts. Persons conducting unlawful examination of the content of electronic transmission may be punished according to the Norwegian Criminal Code. The protection does not extend to e-mails received by employees at their work place, if such e-mail is presumed to be work-related.

Organisations active on Internet Rights issues

Organisations active on Internet Rights issues include Elektronisk Forpost Norge (a sister organization of the Electronic Frontier Foundation13 and Den Norske Dataforening (Norwegian Computer Society). The Norwegian Computer Society is an open, independent forum for Norway's IT professionals and advanced IT users and works amongst other things for social commitment and is active in relation to Norwegian IT policy.14

10 January 2000.

1 See and

2 See

3 See

4 Statistics for Norway may be found at Norwegian Statistics (, Norsk Gallup (, Norges Forskningsråd ( and MMI (

5 Source: Survey by Gallup Intertrack 29.12.2000.

6 Source: Statistics in Norway: Statistics on ICT.

7 Source: Statistisk Sentralbyrå

8 Source: The Norwegian post and telecommunications authority's report, Telestatistikk 1999, section 3.7. All figures are 1999 figures.

9 Source: Survey by Gallup Intertrack 29.12.2000.

10 General information about the data protection regime and the Data Inspectorate is available in English at

11 A summary of the report in English is available at

12 Mr. Kyrre Eggen is a doctorate student at the University of Oslo and is expected to conclude his doctorate thesis during 2001.

13 See English version of the pages are available at

14 The Norwegian Computer Society in English is available at

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