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The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) has expressed its shock and disappointment at the decision to delay the national rollout of 2Mb broadband until 2012.

Speaking at a broadband industry event in London last week, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government could not afford to provide faster broadband nationwide before 2015.

Through the Digital Britain report, published by Lord Carter last summer, the previous Labour government had pledged to equip rural communities with 2Mb broadband by 2012.

William Worsley, President of the CLA, warned that businesses in the UK countryside risk being left on the wrong side of a digital divide.

This latest setback could "seriously compromise" the ability of the rural economy to succeed in the future, he suggested.

"The government needs to recognise that broadband can act as a fundamental driver in propelling the UK out of its current financial situation," he said.

"This will be put in jeopardy if we have to wait an additional three years before everyone can gain adequate broadband coverage."

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