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Environment Secretary Michael Gove has criticised the inconsistency of broadband coverage across the UK.

In a speech at this year's NFU Farming Conference, Mr Gove said it is "unjustifiable" that broadband provision is "so patchy and poor in so many areas".

He stated that the problem is particularly acute in rural areas, which means sectors such as farming are not able to be as productive as they could be, while economic growth in non-urban communities is being held back.

"Daily life, especially active economic life, is becoming increasingly difficult for those without access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband," Mr Gove commented.

"It is the necessary infrastructure of all our lives in these times, as essential as mains electricity or clean drinking water. And yet rural communities in Britain are denied good access to this contemporary utility today."

Mr Gove was keen to stress that progress in this area has been made, with the availability of superfast broadband going up from 65 per cent of premises in 2010 to 95 per cent by the end of 2017.

However, he insisted more needs to be done, which is why the government has pledged to make high-speed broadband available to all by 2020 and this week announced a new initiative to use church spires to boost broadband and mobile connectivity in rural areas.

"This kind of creative thinking shows how our nation’s beautiful heritage can work hand in hand with 21st century innovation," he said.

Mr Gove went on to note that the sum being spent on the High Speed Rail 2 project - more than £60 billion - is 30 times as much as it would cost to provide universal superfast broadband across the UK.

He argued that investment in broadband is "just as vital" and "an urgent part of improving our critical national infrastructure".

Mr Gove added that people in rural areas are currently being "deprived an important service so many take for granted" and therefore "need it now".

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