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Households and businesses in rural areas of Northern Ireland stand to benefit after £2 million funding for high-speed broadband was made available.

The Next Generation Broadband Network scheme has made £1 million available for the project, with internet service provider BT meeting the other half of the bill.

BT will upgrade 40 additional street cabinets, adding to the infrastructure upgrade work already being carried out in the Six Counties.

Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew announced the news, stating: "Access to improved telecoms provides a key catalyst for rural businesses and communities."

She said that high-speed broadband would also provide a means of communication with the rest of the world for those isolated from urban centres.

Graham Sutherland, Chief Executive Officer of BT in Northern Ireland, said the country "continues to lead the way in Europe for fibre enablement".

He added: "This additional funding means that over 85 per cent of businesses will have access to faster broadband speeds by April 2011, equipping them with next-generation services that they can use to underpin their growth."

Back in 2009, BT committed £30 million to the Northern Ireland Next Generation project, as part of its £2.5 billion investment being made across the UK.

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