Every home and business in Ireland is to get a 30Mbps broadband connection within the coming years.
Under a government plan announced by communications minister Pat Rabbitte on Thursday, the country is to spend €175m in the coming years on improving its broadband infrastructure.
The universal 30Mbps rollout, which should cover every home and business "no matter how rural or remote", will be complete in the life of the current parliament – no later than April 2016.
The plan also sets out more ambitious targets for Ireland's more populous areas: the government aims to have half of the population able to access between 70Mbps and 100Mbps before 2015, with the majority expected to get speeds at the higher end of the scale. Another 20 percent of the population, and potentially as much as 35 percent around smaller towns and villages, will be able to get 40Mbps.
"Accelerating broadband rollout is not a new idea and we have seen progress in recent years. However, demand for bandwidth is increasing fast and now is the time to take a significant leap forward," Rabitte wrote in the foreword to the plan (PDF).
While the government has set aside funds to underpin the scheme, it only intends to intervene "where – but only where – it is evident that the market will not deliver. Ireland's population is more broadly dispersed than that of many other countries so reaching the target will require state investment to encourage the private sector to offer services which would not otherwise make commercial sense", it said.
The government will play its part elsewhere to ease the path of operator's infrastructure expansion, however, including tackling issues of planning and road opening, boosting consumer and enterprise internet use, looking at spectrum policy and "maximising the use of state assets where possible".
The number of broadband subscription in Ireland has risen from 602,000 to nearly 1.7 million over the last five years, although less than 10 percent of business broadband subscriptions are currently over 10Mbps.