Just 25pc in remote areas take up offer of broadband
Only one-quarter of households targeted in a scheme to provide broadband to remote areas has taken up the offer.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte's rural broadband scheme was designed to ensure that the 1pc of households in remote locations without access to broadband got an opportunity to have it installed.
But though around 2,000 homes were offered a connection by a private provider under the scheme, just 509 of them decided to take up the offer. The department did not provide any explanation for the low take-up rate of just 25pc.
Mr Rabbitte's department has insisted that the issue of the take-up of broadband is a decision for individual citizens.
It said it was a separate issue from the availability of broadband, which is in place "more or less" for 100pc of Irish households.
Overall, almost one-in-five households do not have an internet connection.
The rural broadband scheme provided no subsidy for householders who wanted to get connected – it simply put them in touch with a company that was prepared to supply it for a fee. The scheme – cost-free from the State's perspective – was set up to help households who had not been covered by the previous National Broadband Scheme.
It was targeted at 200,000 households without a broadband connection, but the take-up was also lower than expected, with just 40,000 customers signing up with the mobile company Three Ireland at a cost of around €20 per month.
The scheme has cost €72m so far but half of this will be refunded by the EU.
According to the latest CSO statistics, 81pc of households had access to the internet last year. The department said it was pursuing several strategies to persuade the remaining households to go online.
These include the appointment of 'Chariots of Fire' film producer David Puttnam as Ireland's 'digital champion' to remind people not to be complacent about the potential of the internet.
Over the past five years, the number of broadband subscriptions in the country has increased from about 600,000 to almost 1.7 million.