Out of the € 9 million budget of the measure to support households in linking up to high-speed internet outside cities in Estonia, only €1.5 million was applied for by residents, Postimees reported.
The amount of support is €300 per household.
Oliver Gailan, head of the communications department at the Estonian Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority (TTJA), said that approximately 5,000 consumers have applied for the grant. The TTJA has been accepting applications from consumers since September and the acceptance of applications ended on November 30. The applications will be reviewed during December.
When announcing the measure in spring, Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Raul Siem (EKRE) said there are close to 65,000 addresses used all year round in Estonia that are still without access to a fast internet grid and for which access would not be established without support from the state.
In order to be eligible for the grant, the applicant had to have an offer from a communications operator to link up to its network.
The grant can be used for cable and radio based permanent internet connections.
Gailan said that most of the connections are established by means of over-the-air connection.
Kurmet Muursepp, deputy mayor of the Antsla municipality in Võru County, told Postimees that some potential applicants in their region didn't apply because they didn't find a service provider. He said the problem is that establishing a high-speed internet connection in a rural area actually costs thousands of euros.
Operators are interested only when there is a large number of clients in a small area, which reduces the accession cost for them.
"In a certain sense this was also a test, of whether and what would help people most under difficult conditions," Minister Raul Siem said, commenting on the miscalculation of €7.5 million related to the budget of the internet link-up measure.
On the upside, he pointed out that interest towards the infrastructure measure meant for operators was several times higher than expected.
The government has set aside €6 million under this year's supplementary budget for investments in the establishment of high-speed internet connections in rural areas. Altogether 13 communications operators have applied for funding in the total amount of €15.7 million under that measure, which is €9.7 million more than the available amount.
The minister said that one of the options on the table now is to carry over the €7.5 million left untapped under the measure for households into the budget of the measure for operators. He was unable to say how many addresses are about to get a high-speed internet connection as a result of the measure, as the qualification of applicants under the infrastructure measure is still underway.
Editor: Helen Wright