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Northern Ireland is to become the first region in Europe with blanket broadband coverage following confirmation that BT has won the contract to supply high-speed Internet services by the end of 2005.

BT was one of 27 companies and consortia from across Europe that responded to the tender. It was awarded the contract because it offered the "best value for money".

The contract is to be managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and funded by the EU Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme.

Announcing the deal yesterday, trade minister Ian Pearson said: "By the end of 2005 every household and every business in Northern Ireland, no matter how remote, will have access to broadband at the same price.

"Local businesses will have the level playing field they need to compete in a global economy.

"This vitally important contract will deliver the Government's broadband vision of a fully connected Northern Ireland. In turn it will help make Northern Ireland more competitive." ®

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