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Wales to get £57m govt investment in broadband

Fund will include £10m announced by the Chancellor earlier this year

The government has pledged to spend nearly £57m improving broadband access in Wales.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the £56.9m in funding will come from the £530m pot set aside by the government last year to improve net access across rural areas of the UK and will include the £10m fund announced by Chancellor George Osborne in February.

"Superfast broadband is essential if businesses are to grow and create new jobs. It is increasingly important for the way we deliver public services and to our everyday lives. But some areas of the UK are being left behind. Many rural and hard-to-reach communities do not have decent broadband access. We must ensure the whole country can join the digital age," said Hunt.

"If the Welsh government matches our investment, 90 percent of the country's homes and businesses will have access to superfast broadband."

The government hopes the £530m fund will help ensure every UK resident has access to superfast broadband, which is defined at 24Mbps or above, by 2015.

Last week, Ofcom published an interactive map that depicts fixed broadband speeds across the UK. It highlighted the fact more than half the administrative areas of Wales have some of the worst broadband provisions in the UK.

The Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan, said she was "delighted" with the announcement.

"Boosting economic growth in Wales is my number-one priority. We will continue to work in partnership with the Welsh government on the delivery of super-fast broadband across Wales," she said.

The announcement comes as the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) revealed lack of decent broadband connections prevents rural businesses and communities from communicating properly.

"The CLA has long recognised the growing importance of communicating digitally, and aims to help rural areas get up to speed with their urban counterparts. However, the lack of a suitable broadband connection makes it nearly impossible for rural businesses and communities to communicate," said CLA president William Worsley.

"If rural areas cannot connect because there is no broadband, they are unable to benefit from new technologies such as Twitter and Facebook. The divide will widen, leading to uncompetitive rural businesses and socially excluded rural communities. The countryside sees the enormous advantages of social media but is frustrated that it cannot play a part."

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