Broadband connectivity in Wales will not be improved without public investment, it has been claimed.
First Minister Carwyn Jones claimed that high-speed broadband will be as crucial to the economy as the railway network was in the 19th century, in terms of bringing prosperity to the nation.
However, left to the private sector alone, many sparsely-populated rural areas will be left on the wrong side of a digital divide, he suggested.
As a result, the government's 50p-a-month broadband tax is essential as a means of generating public investment in the national internet infrastructure, he claimed.
Mr Jones commented: "There aren't enough people living in large swathes of Wales to actually make those areas attractive to broadband providers.
"If rural Wales misses out on super-fast broadband, it will hold back its performance economically."
The Federation of Small Businesses in Wales recently called for investment in rural web services to ensure the survival of companies based in the countryside.