HUNDREDS of homes in the New Forest are set to gain access to superfast broadband speeds.
Plans to upgrade four broadband cabinets across the Forest mean speeds of at least 24 megabits per second (mbps) will be available to about 400 properties across the district.
The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) says broadband speeds in the Forest have been as low as 0.25mbps - thanks to the rural nature of the area.
Now homes and businesses in Brockenhurst, Burley, East Boldre and South Gorley will benefit from the proposed upgrade.
The scheme has been approved by Hampshire County Council and other stakeholders, including the NPA, the Verderers of the New Forest and the Forestry Commission.
Those welcoming the news include the county council's executive member for economic development, Cllr Mel Kendal, who is also a member of New Forest District Council.
He said: “Superfast Broadband is crucial for the future prosperity of the New Forest and Hampshire as a whole - helping pupils with homework, supporting businesses and helping reduce social isolation by making it easier for people to communicate online.
“It’s been important that we consider the proposals very carefully.
"We want to ensure that the work will not have an impact on the special and unique qualities of the New Forest National Park and its free-roaming livestock.
"I’m pleased that we can now take forward these proposals and help bring faster Internet connections to many more homes in the New Forest."
No work will take place until after the deadline for public comments expires on March 31.
The Hampshire Superfast Broadband programme, funded by BT, the county council and other organisations, has already enabled 63,000 premises across the county to access superfast internet speeds.
The programme’s extended 'Wave 2' will deliver access to a further 43,000 premises by 2019, increasing coverage to 97.4% of properties.
Cllr Kendal added: “Significant challenges remain in Hampshire to reach the final few dwellings, where proportionately more expensive infrastructure is needed for a smaller number of properties.
"However, we are alert to the challenges and are working hard to find a solution for these areas."
By the end of the programme in 2019 the county council will have invested £12.9 million in superfast broadband, with a further £16.4 million coming from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and £1.25 million from district councils.
Residents and businesses will need to sign up for the improved broadband service via Internet service providers.
Further information can be found at hants.gov.uk/broadband and via the Ofcom website - checker.ofcom.org.uk.