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The Country Land & Business Association (CLA) says rural firms have just one gift on their Christmas list - reliable broadband services.

According to Ofcom, 20 per cent of rural areas are still unable to receive an effective and affordable broadband connection, while up to 35 per cent have no access to super-fast broadband.

Some 20 per cent of broadband users across England and Wales have a download speed of less than 2Mb, the media regulator said.

As such, the CLA is calling for government funding to be spent bringing rural broadband not-spots up to speed, rather than making the already fast even faster.

CLA President Harry Cotterell said the coalition is investing millions in improving broadband delivery and progress is being made.

Some £530 million has been set aside by the government for rural fibre broadband, and this money is in the process of being distributed by Broadband Delivery UK.

However, Mr Cotterell claimed digital change is not occurring quickly enough in more remote rural areas.

"The rural-urban digital divide is growing at an alarming rate and causing major problems for farmers and landowners with commercial properties," he stated.

"[Landlords] have lost tenants because they cannot offer a superfast broadband connection."

Mr Cotterell said rural communities without a reliable connection are suffering too, as they cannot access key online facilities such as tax returns and bill payments.

And with an increasing number of public services moving online, this is a major cause for concern among people living and working in villages and hamlets.

BT is in the process of rolling out fibre broadband across the UK, and aims to deliver super-fast broadband services to two-thirds of the UK population by 2014.

At the same time Virgin Media is continuing to extend its own super-fast fibre broadband network, which is now accessible to more than a third of UK homes.

But the cost of linking up remote communities to the main network is largely prohibitive to private sector broadband providers, making the government's involvement all the more important.

However, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has already admitted that the £530 million in public funding for rural broadband may be insufficient to achieve the universal service target of 2Mb by 2015.

Another £300 million may be made available to bolster the rollout after 2015, but this is dependent on the outcome of the next general election.

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