Iceland’s fibre optic plans to close rural connectivity gaps by 2026

Raufarhöfn, a village in Iceland’s Far North. “If we want to properly unleash the power of our citizens, we need to ensure that they can all access a powerful internet connection and all the opportunities that come with it,” said Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir, the minister of Universities, Industry, and Innovation. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

Iceland’s Minister of Universities, Industry, and Innovation announced that the country plans to provide fibre optic network access to 100 per cent of the population by 2026, ensuring rural areas and smaller population centers achieve the same connectivity as urban centers.

“Completing the fibre-optic expansion in full in such a short time will not only strengthen the country’s settlements, but also increase the country’s competitiveness by a significant margin,” Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The ministry had previously planned to connect 80 per cent of the country’s legal residences by the end of 2028.

Iceland has long been working towards providing fibre optic connections to rural areas where there is no market incentive for companies to invest.

Urban vs Rural

Urban Centres: 200 or more inhabitants 

Rural Centres: 50–199 inhabitants

The Telecommunications Foundation provided financial support to 57 local authorities to deploy fibre optic networks in rural areas, leading to fibre optic access for around 82 per cent of rural households.

“Equal access to a high-speed Internet connection is the basis of modern living standards, business life and the competitiveness of settlements,” Sigurbjörnsdóttir said.

A settlement in southeastern Iceland. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

“We have done well in this regard in recent years, but if we want to properly unleash the power of our citizens, we need to ensure that they can all access a powerful internet connection and all the opportunities that come with it,” the minister said. 

Five thousand addresses still offline in urban areas

Earlier this year, Fjarskiptastofa, the government agency in Iceland that oversees postal services and telecommunications, surveyed telecommunications companies and public bodies about their plans to expand fibre optic networks in all urban areas from 2024 to 2026.

Their findings showed that about 4,900 addresses in urban areas were not included in the plans.

As a response, the government is now offering grants to municipalities to cover the groundwork needed for installing these cables.

Mobile coverage gaps remain 

In recent years, mobile network coverage has been nearly universal in built-up areas, reaching around 99.9%.

Akureyri, Iceland. Government plans include boosting cell phone service where connectivity gaps remain. (Eilís Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

However, a preliminary investigation by the Telecommunications Agency has identified about 100 legal residences or workplaces that either lack any mobile network access or have inadequate coverage that falls below universal service standards.

“Iceland is among the leading countries in the spread of fibre optics, Iceland has a unique position in the availability of fibre optics in rural areas, and the spread of  4G  and  5G  is on par with the best in the world,” Sigurbjörnsdóttir said.

“This has happened both due to intense competition and the government’s properly adjusted intervention.”

Comments, tips or story ideas? Contact Eilís at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Non-profit offers free Starlink internet to Ulukhaktok; residents say they’re good, CBC News

Norway: New satellites to boost communications in Arctic Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Russian military to get fast, secure internet through trans-Arctic cable, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: $30.3 million grant announced to build up high-speed internet in rural Alaska, Eye on the Arctic

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