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Access to broadband internet services is vital to total communities, one government minister has emphasised.

Hilary Benn, the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, paid a visit to locations in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire to see how computer technology could affect businesses in the countryside.

Speaking on the tour organised by the Commission for Rural Communities, Mr Benn picked out broadband as an essential component of information technology in rural regions.

He said: "Technology has helped rural entrepreneurship to grow and broadband is transforming lives, communities and jobs. I know that broadband is essential for rural communities and businesses.

"I will make sure that access for rural areas is a central part of government plans for the future of broadband."

Following the recommendations of the Digital Britain report, the government will aim to provide universal access to broadband in the UK by the year 2012.

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