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As many as six in ten rural businesses are suffering as a result of slow broadband speeds, a leading lobby group has claimed.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the government needs to deliver super-fast broadband to the majority of the countryside in order to revitalise the rural economy.

"Countryside businesses and households have long had problems either accessing broadband or with slow speeds," the FSB noted.

Some 63 per cent of rural firms are dissatisfied with the speed of their broadband connection compared to 48 per cent of businesses in urban areas, the federation reported.

Another 34 per cent of small rural companies said they are dissatisfied with the reliability of their broadband, while 24 per cent expressed dissatisfaction about value for money.

As such, the FSB is calling on the government to rollout 20Mb broadband to 98 per cent of rural communities and businesses, helping to close the digital gap between rural and urban firms.

The federation believes that all businesses, irrespective of location, should be able to tap into all markets.

"Broadband is crucial for this, especially for rural businesses that are often miles away from their customers and suppliers. It will also help them boost exports - crucial for economic growth," the FSB added.

"Effective broadband is also vital for businesses to access and complete government services, such as applications for funding, business rates and tax returns, which are all being put online."

In addition, the federation believes that by rolling out efficient broadband, it will encourage more small businesses to grow, improve their competiveness and take on staff.

John Walker, national chairman of the FSB, said too many companies are still unable to access basic broadband to run their business effectively.

"It shouldn't matter where a business is located. With the technology we have today all firms should be able to trade overseas, throughout the UK, and from town to village," he added.

"With both rural and urban businesses clearly looking to the internet to expand, it is imperative the government takes action to close the digital divide between urban and rural businesses."

Mr Walker said the value of increasing access to super-fast broadband "is not in doubt".

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