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Faster and more reliable broadband services will provide a real boost to the rural economy over the next decade, it has been claimed.

In a new report, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) explained that the countryside currently accounts for 16 per cent of Gross Value Added, 16 per cent of employment and 26 per cent of businesses in England.

And according to Defra, the importance of rural areas is set to grow as increased connectivity enables more flexible working, further growth in knowledge-based industries and increased transfer of innovation.

The department said the continuation of such trends can be expected to lead to stronger productivity growth, job creation and higher output in rural areas over the next decade.

It believes productivity in the countryside could grow faster than in England's major towns and cities.

Defra said the government is supporting these trends by investing in internet connectivity - namely super-fast broadband - in under-served parts of the country.

The department explained the government is investing £780 million to achieve 95 per cent super-fast broadband coverage by 2017 and approximately £13.1 million under the Rural Community Broadband Fund to reach less accessible areas.

"The government is continuing to explore solutions to meet near universal super-fast broadband coverage, including through a £10 million investment to market test pilots to explore delivery options for the final five per cent hard-to-reach premises," Defra stated.

It claimed the government’s initial investment to achieve 90 per cent coverage could result in annual gains of £6.3 billion by 2024, with £3.3 billion of these accruing to rural areas.

"With the extension to 95 per cent super-fast coverage and potentially beyond, the benefits will be greater and a larger share of could be expected to accrue to rural areas."

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