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Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the availability of broadband in rural areas. [113694]

Recent developments and technical developments are increasing the potential for Broadband connections in many rural areas. DEFRA is working closely with the DTI to enable communities across the UK, to have the best possible opportunity to gain access to affordable broadband. The opportunity of public sector investment to bring broadband to wider rural communities is one we must not miss. Broadband has huge potential to overcome issues of distance and lead to increased productivity for our rural businesses, new ways of tackling learning and skills issues and better ways for rural communities to access government services. Much is going on in the RDAs, in local authorities and in communities throughout rural areas. The new DTI rural team, with DEFRA involvement, will provide valuable resources to assist and co-ordinate this work, making sure that all can learn from the experience of the best.