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The government in Northern Ireland is seeking out a broadband provider to connect rural areas of the country.

A five-year deal with BT is set to expire next at the end of March 2009 and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) is currently looking for a new provider to take up the tender.

BT's customers in urban areas using phone lines will not see their connection disrupted, but those currently receiving broadband via satellite will lose the service unless another provider can be found.

Telecoms minister Arlene Foster underlined her commitment to ensuring the continuation of blanket coverage across the country.

She said: "I am determined that Northern Ireland should maintain its 100 per cent broadband availability status and those living in remote areas should continue to have access to broadband services at a reasonable cost."

Northern Ireland was the first European country to claim 100 per cent broadband coverage in 2006.

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