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Openreach has hit back at criticism of its policy of charging rural residents to connect their homes to the internet.

According to an investigation by Money Mail, people in non-urban areas are sometimes being charged more than £5,000 in order to fund infrastructure deployments.

Grant Shapps, chair of the British Infrastructure Group of MPs (BIG), responded by arguing that broadband is now "one of life's essential services, like electricity" and should therefore not subsidised by communities.

"You'd never expect the public to pay for the wires to be laid to switch on the lights," he said.

While 95 per cent of the population can now get speeds of at least 10Mbps, Openreach has insisted it is as "frustrated as anyone" that it cannot upgrade the remaining five per cent easily.

"These communities are so difficult and expensive to connect with fibre broadband that they've been turned down or ignored by other companies and publicly subsidised schemes," a spokesman commented.

He stressed that unlike other organisations, Openreach will "never say no" when communities in this situation want faster and more reliable broadband.

As a result, it will offer to contribute "as much funding as a private company can when it has employees, pensioners and shareholders to consider".

"We then ask for communities to fund the gap and the reality is that some projects can be costly," the Openreach official said.

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.

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