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The Country and Land Owners Association (CLA) has welcomed communications minister Lord Carter's suggestion that the universal service obligation (USO) could be extended from telephony to broadband services, but with a word of warning.

A USO currently means that every household in the UK is entitled to a telephone line - that stipulation could be extended to broadband services if former Ofcom chief Stephen Carter has his way.

CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher has responded to the news, saying the government must be prepared to invest in such a move itself.

"The CLA believes it is essential for all rural businesses to have access to affordable, high-speed broadband," he said.

"However, the government has still failed to realise that a universal broadband service requires major public sector investment. We are well aware that there remains significant concern in the private sector as to how such an obligation can be given."

BT, which has put forward plans for a £1.5 billion broadband service reaching ten million homes by the year 2012, is currently charged with meeting the USO for telephone services.

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