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The UK's rural businesses could contribute billions more to the national economy if they were equipped with high-speed broadband, it has been claimed.

Dr Stuart Burgess, chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities and the Government's Rural Advocate, said it is time to realise the economic potential of the countryside.

He commented that, in the context of June's emergency Budget, it is more vital than ever for rural companies to make a bigger contribution.

However, Dr Burgess said such firms are "crying out" for improved access to the internet.

"The rural community needs to be economically viable and broadband is essential for farmers, young people and businesses," he added.

Labour had planned to introduce a 50p per month landline levy to fund the development of internet infrastructure in rural areas, however, the party conceded defeat on this policy ahead of the general election.

The Con-Lib coalition has since promised to roll out 2Mb broadband to the whole of the UK by 2015.

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