A COUPLE from the New Forest are the first residents to benefit from a £14million project to provide "lightning-fast" broadband to rural areas.

Gillian and Jeff Bailey, from Martin,  are the first residents in the New Forest to benefit from an ultrafast full-fibre broadband connection from Wessex Internet as part of 'Project Gigabit', the government’s flagship programme to bring lightning-fast gigabit-capable broadband to hard-to-reach communities.

Rural villages in New Forest are benefitting from the £14million Project Gigabit investment awarded to Wessex Internet last year to connect more than 10,500 properties to the digital fast lane.

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This rollout will target hard-to-reach areas which, without government intervention, would miss out on the industry’s rollout of faster, more reliable ‘gigabit-capable’ broadband.

The upgrades will help grow the economy, create jobs and deliver long-term change for a brighter future by making it easier for rural communities to access to networks designed to meet people’s needs for decades.

The couple, who are in their sixties, have lived in the village for 14 years, having moved from Southampton to escape city life for more peaceful living in the countryside.

Together they have run their own business since 1993, offering paintless dent removal on vehicles, but are both soon to retire.

Gillian, a mother and grandmother who uses the internet mainly for genealogical research purposes, said: "Our contract with BT came to an end in January 2024 and we decided to take up a full-fibre connection with Wessex Internet because we wanted FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) as opposed to FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). I think it’s important for residents to realise the difference.

"I mainly use the internet to research my family tree and heritage, whereas Jeff uses it for online shopping."

From streaming films on their television to listening to 70s music, Mr and Mrs Bailey use multiple smart devices within their home, which will now benefit from the faster and more reliable broadband thanks to their full fibre connection from Wessex Internet.

Jez Allman, chief commercial Officer at Wessex Internet, said: "Martin is our first completed network build as part of Project Gigabit New Forest.

"It’s great to be working with the community and the government to provision ultrafast broadband into people’s homes and businesses, so that they can benefit more fully from the Internet of Things (IoT).

"We’re very proud of the collaborative effort achieved in this project between the Martin community and the Wessex Internet team."

Martin is just one of many rural villages in Hampshire benefitting from Project Gigabit, as Wessex Internet will continue to connect homes and businesses in the New Forest, including areas such as Whitsbury, Damerham, Rockbourne, Sway and Brockenhurst.

Residents who want to find out if Wessex Internet is connecting their area can use an online coverage checker at www.wessexinternet.com or call 0333 240 7997.