RURAL areas are lagging far behind Dublin in the expansion of 'superfast' internet connections, a new Europe-wide survey has found.
A European Commission report which compiled the results of a study of broadband coverage across the continent has shown that nowhere outside the capital has more than 25pc 'superfast' broadband coverage.
And it found that, in all, just over a third of homes in the country can subscribe to such services, with availability at 89pc in Dublin.
The commission's report defines 'superfast' broadband connections as those that deliver streaming of high-definition video, or smooth online gaming at speeds of at least 30 megabits per second of bandwidth.
The number of homes that could subscribe to a 'superfast' service stood at 36pc last year, which is below average in the survey that includes the other 26 EU member states as well as Norway and Iceland.
The Netherlands has 100pc coverage in rural areas, while Belgium is next best at 56pc.
The EU has set a target that all citizens can get access to 'superfast' broadband at home by 2020 – or what it dubbed its goal of 'digital heaven'.
An EU spokeswoman said: "As one of Europe's most rural countries, Ireland does a good job in providing basic broadband to over 97pc of the population, including 94pc of those in rural areas.
"But it faces a much bigger challenge with the 'superfast' target where current rural coverage is virtually zero."
The study found that Ireland is doing better in terms of 3G connections offered by mobile phone companies with the country's 95pc coverage slightly ahead of the EU average.
Neelie Kroes, the EU commission vice-president responsible for the EU's 'Digital Agenda' said that the survey "will help guide decisions on where EU and private money can be invested to provide the best long-term return for taxpayers".
She called for €7bn of the EU's budget to be set aside for investment in broadband.
Last month the Government raised more than €850m after a spectrum auction that paves the way for the next generation of mobile broadband, known as 4G.
The auction of spectrum rights, including the band freed up by the switchover to digital TV in October, raised €482m upfront, with €373m more in fees to be paid by operators.
The 4G services are expected to begin to be rolled out in the first half of next year.