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Prime minister Gordon Brown has dropped a hint that public money could be used to speed up the development of Britain's super-fast broadband network.

In an interview with the Observer, published at the weekend, Mr Brown suggested that the private sector may receive help with the construction of a high-speed fibre-optic broadband infrastructure.

The government-commissioned Caio Review had previously played down the need for public investment in any next-generation broadband projects, saying that the private sector would meet the demand.

In a possible turn-around, Mr Brown told the Observer: "When we talk about the roads and the bridges and the railways that were built in previous times - and those were anti-recession measures taken to help people through difficult times - you could [by comparison] talk about the digital infrastructure and that form of communications revolution at a period when we want to stimulate the economy. It's a very important thing."

BT has already unveiled plans for a £1.5 billion fibre-optic network to reach ten million households by the year 2012.

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