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The Countryside Alliance has expressed concern after the government suggested rural areas might miss out on taxpayer-funded broadband.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey recently admitted that the government may be unable to deliver on its promise of offering universal superfast speeds.

The government wants to ensure that everyone is able to access minimum broadband speeds of 10Mbps by 2020 and make this target legally binding.

However, the Minister told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee he cannot guarantee that every single house and business premises will get this level of connectivity, although he stated that it "should be potentially possible".

The Countryside Alliance said this is "very disappointing", as the point of its Universal Service Obligation (USO) was that it applies to everyone in the UK.

Head of Policy Sarah Lee commented: "This one was suggested specifically to ensure that the most rural, hard-to-reach properties will enjoy workable broadband speeds.

"We have responded positively to the government’s consultation on a USO so it is disappointing to learn, before it has closed, that its result seems to have been prejudged."

Ms Lee pointed out nearly half of all the 1.5 million premises in rural areas of the UK still receive broadband speeds of less than 10Mbps.

Furthermore, she said one in five rural premises are still struggling with speeds of 5Mbps or lower.

Ms Lee insisted that this has to improve, as high-speed broadband is an "essential service for modern life".

"We believe a lack of broadband capacity in rural areas is holding back the countryside, socially and economically," she added.

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