TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has warned senior civil servants that Ireland could slip into the second rank of international economies if it does not speed up the opening of advanced telecommunications around the country.
Mr Ahern said Ireland is lagging behind other countries in its development of broadband telecoms connections countrywide.
And he issued a stark warning that the official strategy so far has "not taken us where we want to be".
A hard hitting memo seen by the Irish Independent, outlines how Mr Ahern, together with Public Enterprise Minister Mary O'Rourke, plans to make this issue a key priority in the future.
The position paper describes the problems that have beset Ireland's broadband strategy. It underlines that not enough town and cities around the country are connected to broadband, which provides high speed telecommunications cables enabling better phone, internet and e-commerce services.
Signalling a review of official strategy on the vital area, Mr Ahern warns that other countries are moving ahead of us in this area, with Ireland coming in 25th out of 30 OECD countries in a recent survey on access to broadband. EU candidate countries like Hungary and the Czech Republic scored higher.
The paper says that "if we get this right we can be in the top three or four information led economies for the next decade.
"Conversely, if we do not achieve local connectivity we will slip into the second rank of economies," the paper warned.
The unpublished document describes how Mr Ahern has been "banging heads together between the public and private sectors on this issue."
He has begun an interdepartmental review of strategy to ensure the delivery of a telecoms broadband infrastructure nationwide.
The paper describes a number of central points to the Government's current thinking.
It says: "We have international connectivity, and we have a developing national and regional backbone. We now need to go to the next step and connect locally.
"The market has not delivered a local connectivity. In a changed environment, a new road map is needed," the note urged.
Richard Curran Business Editor