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The government has been urged to bring forward £300 million of additional broadband investment, earmarked for after the general election in 2015.

According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the money - to come from future BBC licence fee revenue - is needed now to accelerate the UK's rural broadband rollout.

Some £530 million has been pledged to local authorities to help increase super-fast broadband penetration, with the government setting a 90 per cent coverage target by 2015.

However, concerns have been raised about the rate of progress on the scheme, and also the amount of public money available to fund it.

The CBI believes it is a mistake to hold back the additional £300 million until after the next general election, given that many homes and businesses in rural areas continue to struggle with slow broadband speeds and poor service reliability.

It claims it would be "more cost-effective" to roll forward the funding to target existing local schemes and a wider range of technology to drive up connectivity now.

This may require agreement from the main political parties, since the outcome of the next general election remains unknown.

Katja Hall, Chief Policy Director at the CBI, noted that broader, faster digital networks are "revolutionising" how society and business operate, just as the Victorian rail and electrification systems transformed the world in the 1800s.

“The UK has a positive story to tell on digital but we cannot be complacent if we want to stay ahead," she stated.

"Politicians of all parties must set aside the carping and map out digital plans together for the next decade and beyond. Too often difficult decisions are kicked into the long grass."

Ms Hall said that businesses and industry "need to know where they stand" before investing for the long-term - with digital now as fundamental to business as transport or energy networks.

"Digital policy is not an optional add-on, it’s central to fuelling long-term growth through inward investment, job creation and exports," she claimed.

The CBI Chief Policy Director added that the rural/urban internet divide must be closed as soon as possible, and the government should not wait another two years to increase funding for the rollout scheme.

"It will be far quicker to invest in existing innovative, ongoing local and industry schemes now to unlock economic and social benefits," she argued.

"Industry has taken the lead on expanding broadband connectivity across the country. Government now has to do its bit on the hardest areas to reach – particularly when 4G is becoming standard and 5G is on the horizon."

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