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No improvement in fixed internet availability in 2014 for Ireland


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Ireland recorded no increase in the availability of fixed domestic broadband last year, despite a big push from policy makers to improve access to services nationally.

No Irish region, even Dublin, is ranked among the best in Europe for access to broadband for business or consumers. According to the latest figures from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, 82pc of households here have internet access, the same level as in 2013.

However, almost two million people mainly in rural areas cannot access commercial broadband services, according to the same report.

Full access to fast and reliable broadband is seen as a key economic target nationally and at European level.

Despite being home to some of the world's biggest tech companies, Ireland lags behind 13 other EU countries including the UK, France and Estonia, in terms of domestic internet access. Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Iceland ranked best for domestic internet access with 96pc of availability.

In Ireland, the east and southern regions, excluding Louth, have an average connectivity rate of between 78pc and 88pc while the midlands and the west average 68pc to 78pc.

Internet availability to businesses is better, at 98pc.

However, businesses' internet availability is behind the likes of Luxembourg, Lithuania and the Netherlands, who all boast 100pc connectivity for enterprises. Broadband availability remains a significant challenge to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland and while more than 60pc of them have a website over 90pc can't process sales online.

In July, Communications Minister Alex White announced the National Broadband Plan with a target to bring high speed internet to the rest of the population. Tendering for contracts linked to the plan will take place in December with new broadband services expected to be rolled out across the country in 2016.

While moves are being made to tackle challenging broadband conditions in rural areas mobile internet use has already rocketed in the past two years.

Last week data from Statcounter revealed that web use on mobiles here was almost a third higher than the EU average and that traditional desktop internet use had fallen by over 20pc. Elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch region of Zeeland is the most connected area across Europe in terms of broadband availability, according to the latest figures from Eurostat.

The figures also show that almost one fifth of all Europeans have never used the internet.

Here, 16pc of people have never used a computer, which is 2pc below the EU average, a figure that the European Commission's Directorate-General for Communications Networks is trying to reduce.

Outside of broadband, 2014 saw a reverseal in the previous trend of declining numbers of fixed phone lines in use in Ireland. According to the figures, the number of fixed lines rose by 26,727 in 2014.

Mobile phone subscriptions also rose, by 128,000, and according to the latest figures stand at 5.6 million.

The European Commission's digital agenda for 2020 includes a target for the entire EU to be covered by fast broadband of at least 20Mbps in the next five years.

Irish Independent