THE country's much-berated broadband services are getting even worse, with Ireland dropping out of the Global Top 50 rankings for download speeds.
The bad news for computer users comes as a separate study reveals subscribers in parts of rural Ireland could be paying 1,200% more for broadband than their urban counterparts.
It is estimated there is a gap of €1,476 more per annum between the cheapest and dearest broadband packages.
A survey claims the performance of broadband services in the Republic has deteriorated alarmingly over recent months.
The study by campaign group, Ireland Offline, said download and upload speeds had got worse since a similar report was published last May which described services as "grossly under-performing".
Ireland has now slipped to 51st position in the world for download speeds - down 10 places since the previous study. It has also fallen to 70th place for upload speeds - down from 63rd last May.
On a more positive note, Ireland is ranked in 59th position for overall broadband quality - up four places.
Ireland Offline's chairman Eamonn Wallace called on Communications Minister Eamon Ryan to tackle the issue immediately in order to improve broadband services.
"Global investment inevitably follows quality infrastructure. We are paying a terrible cost for many years of complete policy failure by Mr Ryan and by ComReg," said Mr Wallace.
He also accused broadband service providers of advertising blatantly misleading "up to" speeds which were incapable of being delivered.
Meanwhile, separate research by a consumer website has highlighted cost differences between packages.
The survey by bonkers.ie shows there are wide disparities in the cost of access to high speed internet.
It found personal broadband packages with similar download speeds and data allowances can range from as little as €120 per year for a mobile internet subscription to as much as €1,596 for customers who have no choice but to access the internet with a satellite broadband provider.
The survey showed rural users are at a distinct disadvantage over urban dwellers in terms of choice and cost. Consumers in cities like Dublin and Cork can choose from 120 packages supplied by 13 different providers with an array of speeds, allowances, connection types and call options.
For example, many services operate speeds of 24 Mbps with data allowances of up to 300GB per month. In contrast, some people in remote areas can be limited to a choice of handful of satellite packages from as few as two suppliers which offer speeds of 3.6Mbps and a monthly data allowance of just 12GB.
According to the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), 15% of consumers have switched their internet service providers over the past 12 months. The majority claimed they had moved provider on the basis they found a cheaper deal.
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