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The rollout of fibre broadband services in the UK countryside is helping to narrow Britain's digital divide, a leading minister has claimed.

Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, said the ongoing scheme to make super-fast broadband available nationwide is "bridging the age-old gap" between urban and rural areas.

This is helping to transform small towns and villages, ensuring businesses are able to compete more effectively with rivals based in larger urban areas, he suggested.

Mr Paterson said fibre broadband can help communities "access services in a way that they’ve not been able to before".

The government has committed to invest an initial £530 million in the delivery of super-fast services outside the main urban centres.

This is with a view to ensuring 95 per cent of homes and businesses across the UK can sign up for 25Mb+ services by 2017.

Broadband providers including BT and Virgin Media are continuing with their own commercial rollouts separately, further increasing access to super-fast services.

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