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The Country, Land and Business Association (CLA) has called for new assurances from the government over the broadband rollout in rural areas.

In a new report, entitled 'Broadband Fit for Rural Growth', the lobby organisation urges the Con-Lib coalition to upgrade its universal service commitment to an obligation.

"It is unlikely that the government's objective for Britain to have the best super-fast broadband network in Europe by 2015 will be realised," said Harry Cotterell, President of the CLA.

"There is no legal sanction behind a universal service commitment - it provides the government with a get-out clause if the benchmark is not achieved, and it is very unlikely it will be achieved by 2015."

He said it is "vital" that rural homes and businesses gain access to high-speed broadband as soon as possible.

"Broadband acts as an economic driver for rural businesses as well as helping the social development of rural communities," Mr Cotterell stated.

"But between 15 and 20 per cent of those who live in rural areas are still unable to receive anywhere near the government's benchmark of 2Mb."

As such, he claimed there is "still a huge amount to be done" to ensure coverage is universal.

"We have set out our first-ever rural broadband policy because we believe the government must do more to help the countryside," the CLA president added.

"By seeking to form a strategic alliance with other rural interest groups to agree common objectives, we can help to deliver a comprehensive broadband strategy."

Mr Cotterell said that until a fixed-line broadband infrastructure is put in place, other technologies must be used to bridge the rural/urban digital divide.

"The CLA advocates a 'patchwork-quilt' model whereby other technologies, such as Wi-Fi and satellite, become widely available and used. But the government must create the right conditions for this to happen," he added.

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