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The government-backed rollout of fibre broadband in rural parts of the UK has reached an important milestone.

According to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), half of the programmes designed to deliver fibre broadband to the countryside are now underway.

West Sussex County Council recently signed an agreement with BT to construct a rural fibre broadband network - kicking the 22nd local broadband scheme into gear.

Government funding - distributed by Broadband Delivery UK - has been allocated to 44 individual projects in total, 22 of which remain at the planning stage.

Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said the contract signing in West Sussex marks a milestone in the coalition's efforts to bring super-fast broadband to those areas around the UK where it is currently unavailable.

"With 50 per cent of projects now in delivery phase, businesses and individuals will very shortly be enjoying all the benefits that high speeds offer," he stated.

The government is investing £680 million in a bid to transform broadband in the UK, having set itself a target of providing 90 per cent of the population with super-fast broadband access by 2015.

Homes and businesses in the 'final mile' - areas which are most difficult and expensive to equip with fibre - will have access to speeds of at least 2Mb.

And while there will be some variation in the broadband speeds available nationwide, the DCMS believes the government will have achieved "a remarkable transformation" by 2015.

"As a result of the work now taking place, speeds will be dramatically higher and super-fast fixed and mobile broadband will be widespread," the department stated.

"Average speeds will have at least tripled since 2010, and an additional ten million more homes and businesses will have access to super-fast broadband."

The DCMS said the changes will "reinforce the UK's position as a leading digital economy", and also be a major driver of local jobs and national growth.

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