The Government has approved plans for a major enhancement of the fibre broadband network around Ireland.

More than 1,000 locations will be connected by the time the process is completed.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte announced details of the initiative in Co Galway this afternoon.

While several internet service providers are currently enhancing their services and offering increased speeds, many parts of the country still experience huge difficulties when it comes to accessing broadband.

The State investment will bring fibre connectivity to areas where it is not economically viable for private companies to provide services.

Subject to the usual procurement and tendering processes, it is expected that work on the scheme will begin in late 2015. It will take a number of years to complete.

It is expected that some of the fibre lines will be delivered on overground lines, with others going underground.

Minister Rabbitte said the decision to extend fibre connections has been made to ensure broadband connections are "future proofed".

Speaking in Loughrea this afternoon, he denied that today's announcement was a rehash of previous plans to deal with high-speed internet access.

He said an initial investment of €500m would be made to address the digital divide between urban and rural areas.

The minister said there had never been any attempt to provide fibre connections on such a widespread basis.

Mr Rabbitte described this as the "Rolls Royce of broadband connectivity" that would ensure rural Ireland was not left behind.

He said he was confident that employment and businesses opportunities in towns and villages would follow on from the quality of connections that would be provided.

Mr Rabbitte conceded that several parts of the country had a very basic service at the moment and said a long term solution was needed.