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The digital divide between the European broadband 'haves' and 'have nots' must be bridged, the European Commission has asserted.

It is estimated that broadband internet services are still not available to 30 per cent of the countryside inside the European Union's (EU) boundaries.

Now the commissioner for information society and media, Viviane Reding, has warned that while many city dwellers are enjoying the benefits of broadband connections, a large number of rural areas are still missing out.

She said: "Internet technologies contribute to half of productivity growth in the EU, and the EU's member states cannot afford their rural areas missing out on this potential, especially not in these times of economic crisis."

Going on to highlight the importance of broadband for rural firms, Ms Reding announced: "I call on the council to help us ensure that these businesses are not let down by giving a strong signal in support of broadband for all Europeans."

Ms Reding specified 2010 as the year by which the unconnected rural parts of the EU should be provided with broadband access.

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