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New plans could see fibre-optic broadband services made available to homes and businesses in Teesdale by 2011, according to reports.

An initiative has been launched in the area, which is renowned for broadband connectivity problems, to secure funding that will be used to develop and install a network offering connections of up to 20Mb.

The Teesdale Mercury reports that the Digital Dale project is being led by organisations including Barnard Castle Vision, the Teesdale Action Partnership and the Enterprise Agency.

Speaking to the newspaper, Deborah Jenkins, Chairwoman of Barnard Castle Vision, said: "This project is hugely exciting and looks set to transform Teesdale's ability to compete on an equal basis with urban and city centre locations as places to live, work and visit."

Last month, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson announced the launch of a new fund that will be used to cover the cost of introducing fibre-optic broadband services to 90 per cent of the UK by 2017.

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