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The Northern Ireland Assembly is aiming to ensure all households and businesses across the region have basic broadband connectivity.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said it is important that everyone living and working in the Six Counties has access to at least 2Mb download speeds.

She told the Assembly that she personally understands the frustrations of those living in poorly-served rural areas, as a resident of the countryside herself, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

"Our lives are increasingly dependent on telecommunications, whether you are shopping online, booking a holiday, doing homework, emailing friends or working from home," Ms Foster stated.

"I want to ensure that a basic broadband service of 2Mb is available to everyone and to further improve the availability of superfast services."

Ms Foster noted that, in the wider sense, Northern Ireland has been a broadband success story to date.

Particularly where urban coverage levels are concerned, the nation is at the forefront of the field, in Europe and around the world.

The Enterprise Minister pointed to figures from media regulator Ofcom, which reveal that the region has the highest level of access to super-fast broadband services in the UK.

At present, around 95 per cent of homes and businesses have the ability to access fibre broadband if they so choose, she added.

Ms Foster claimed that average broadband speeds have more than doubled to 14.4Mb in the last year alone, enabling citizens to benefit in a number of ways.

But work still needs to be done to ensure broadband services are rolled out to the most remote - and in need - communities in the country.

And this is likely to take additional time and investment.

The Con-Lib coalition has committed to deliver universal 2Mb broadband services in the UK by 2015, in a bid to narrow the growing digital gap.

However, concerns have been raised that with the advent of IPTV and a host of other bandwidth-hungry services, such speeds will soon be inadequate and more ambitious targets will be required.

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