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Rural parts of the UK have worse superfast broadband coverage than comparable areas in many ex-Soviet bloc nations, new data has revealed.

According to the European Commission (EC), the high-speed rural broadband coverage rate is 58.4 per cent in Slovenia and 58.9 per cent in Lithuania.

By contrast, the figure is just 45.9 per cent in the UK.

As a result, the British government has been criticised by the EC for not doing enough to ensure people in non-urban areas receive adequate broadband connectivity.

"Additional efforts are required to bridge the gap in the availability of superfast broadband between urban and rural areas,” the EC said.

"Widely available and competitively priced fast and ultra-fast internet access is essential to allow business and citizens to reap the full benefits offered by ICT, access new services and remain competitive in the international market."

Figures published in the Telegraph also showed that the UK did not compare very well with many nations in western Europe.

For instance, the high-speed rural broadband coverage rate stands at 89 per cent in Switzerland and 84 per cent in Belgium.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, achieved an impressive 97 per cent rate, while Malta came ahead of every other nation with coverage of 100 per cent.

Grant Shapps, chair of the British Infrastructure Group of MPs, responded to the data by saying it "flies in the face of industry claims that 95 per cent of the country is adequately covered with high-speed broadband".

"Instead it describes a picture of slow or non-existent broadband services in too many rural communities," he commented.

"This not only holds back businesses, but also prevents families from keeping in touch or working from home.”

Mr Shapps added that the EC's figures confirm that "our broadband just isn't up to it".

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