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Education in rural areas is being harmed by insufficient access to superfast broadband, according to a  new study by NFU Mutual.

A survey of 1,600 adults from rural areas revealed that one in five families who are reliant on the internet for children's schoolwork cannot access online resources, which is severely hampering their children's ability to do homework, coursework and other learning-based activities.

In many cases, people are being forced to make far more phone calls because of poor broadband connections, which is pushing up their overall monthly bills due to additional charges.

The situation also looks unlikely to improve significantly in the near future, with the government's superfast broadband rollout targets mainly focusing on populated and urban areas.

Although the initial target for fixed line 25Mbps coverage is 90 per cent of UK premises by the end of 2015 and 95 per cent by the end of 2017, most rural locations fall into the remaining five or ten per cent and have little prospect of a noticeable upgrade

Tim Price, a spokesman for NFU Mutual, said that rural children risk falling even further behind their urban counterparts as more educational resources become internet-based.

"Studying online is now a key part of children's education and it's unfair that learning opportunities are being affected by slow internet speeds," he added.

In response, UK Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said the government is aware of how vital broadband can be to people's daily lives and what an important role it plays in education.

He concluded: "We are making sure that thousands of people across the country, particularly in rural areas, are getting access to superfast broadband."

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