Superfast broadband will not be automatically delivered to tens of thousands of remote rural homes, it has emerged.
A Government consultation document says it is likely that many people in such areas would not want to be connected and that extending it to them would not represent value for money.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) rejected suggestions that rural areas were being left behind, insisting that under current plans superfast broadband – defined as 25 megabits per second (Mbps) – would reach 95% of the UK.
However rural campaigners expressed concern that businesses will move away and jobs will be lost unless they are included in the roll-out.
Ministers have repeatedly extolled the economic benefits of extending access to superfast broadband across the country.
However a recent consultation document, highlighted in the Daily Telegraph and The Times, on the Government's promised Universal Service Obligation – which guarantees broadband speeds 10 Mbps – says the full roll-out of superfast broadband would not make sense.
"It is unlikely that everyone will want to be connected, even if that option is made available to them, and so we do not believe that an additional broadband roll-out programme at this time is proportionate or would represent value for money," it says.
Graham Long, chairman of Broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset, told The Times: "Businesses are moving out of rural areas here because they cannot keep their website - their shop window - up to date.
"It will be even worse if they only have 10Mbps in 2020, because the need for better bandwidth will have grown by then, now that we have cloud computing and other shared applications."
A DCMS spokesman said: "It's absolute nonsense to suggest we're leaving rural areas behind in our roll-out of broadband.
"Our current plans will reach at least 95% of the UK, but we want everyone to have fast broadband so we are introducing a Universal Service Obligation to help make sure no-one is left behind."