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PM Tony Blair has welcomed BT's bid to bring affordable broadband to the UK.

Addressing the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at its conference in Birmingham today the PM explained how the last six years has seen a "dramatic increase in the use of the Internet".

He went on: "Broadband is a key driver in the increase in productivity that we are striving for. To quote from your own [the CBI's] recent report on the subject it has 'become integral to improving supply chains throughout the UK'.

"We have made great strides in this area. Broadband is now available to over 80 per cent of the population - up from 67 per cent a year ago. Last year I announced that the Government would spend £1 billion on broadband for its own purposes.

"I welcome Ben Verwaayen's announcement this morning that BT is eager to work with us and local communities to broaden access. I share with him the vision of achieving 100 per cent national coverage by 2005," he said.

In fact, it's not just Mr Blair who is chuffed to bits with the news. Telecoms regulator, David Edmonds, said it was "excellent news" adding that "100 per cent broadband coverage for the UK by 2005 is now within sight".

But he added: "Delivering the final few percent will still require considerable effort from all those involved." ®

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