The Government is to scrap the TV licence fee and replace it with a charge on virtually every home, regardless of whether or not it has a TV set.
The new charge is intended to capture the one in 10 homes that legally do not have a licence because they do not have a traditional TV set.
It means that anyone with a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone will be liable to pay.
"The move will hit thousands of third-level students and young couples who stream services such as Netflix and Now TV on computers and smartphones," said a source.
The measures are contained in the Government's new Broadcasting Bill, which also includes measures to crack down on the 12pc of householders who evade the licence fee.
The Government is to issue a new tender for the detection of licence fee evaders.
Once this five-year contract is up, the State will switch to the new household charge system.
"It is clear that due to the nature of technological change and the movement towards digital devices, the design of the TV licence fee will have to change," said Communications Minister Richard Bruton.
"This is a fundamental reform that will take time to develop, but it will future-proof the funding model, taking account of changes in technology and how content is now consumed."
Privately, Government figures are fearful of a backlash to what may be interpreted as a new "household charge".
"We are not necessarily talking about a household charge," said a source.
"We need to make sure public broadcasting is funded in a fair and sustainable way. Otherwise public broadcasting is being sacrificed at the expense of the internet giants."
Currently, only homes with dedicated televisions must pay the annual €160 licence fee.
Pensioners with existing exemptions will not be affected by the new rule.
"Most people pay their TV licence fee," said Mr Bruton.
"However, we still see approximately 12pc evasion, which we need to address.
"Tendering for a contract of five years will allow the awarded body the chance to invest in a robust collection service."
There may also be a review of the amount of licence fee money that goes to the independent broadcasting sector.
This review may also require RTE - which last year received €189m of licence fee money - to spend more on commissioning content from other Irish television companies.