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The Northern Powerhouse has been praised by ministers for leading the way in tackling the rural-urban digital divide.

According to new figures, the government's £1.7 billion broadband rollout programme has led to 97.2 per cent of the north-east now having access to superfast broadband.

This is the highest coverage rate in the country, followed by the north-west with 96 per cent coverage.

Commenting on the figures, Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said the north of England is "leading the charge" in closing the rural-urban digital divide.

"We’re doing all we can to bring broadband access to even the most remote and rural areas in the country and are giving businesses the tools they need to meet the demands of the digital age," he commented.

Mr Berry went on to insist that a strong digital infrastructure, including access to superfast broadband, is "vital for a flourishing local economy", as it helps to drive growth and creates new jobs.

Matt Hancock, the Digital Secretary, added that over the last five years, the government's rollout of superfast broadband has made superfast speeds "a reality for more than 4.5 million homes and businesses who would otherwise have missed out".

However, he stressed there is still more to do, especially as it has committed to making affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband a legal right to everyone by 2020.

The government has already confirmed that universal high speed broadband is to be delivered by a regulatory Universal Service Obligation (USO).

This means that everyone in Britain will have the legal right to request minimum speeds of 10Mbps by 2020.

According to the government, this is the speed that will meet the typical needs of a family that wants to browse the web, stream films and carry out video conferencing at the same time.

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