RURAL Test Valley residents are set to get a more than 175 per cent boost in broadband speeds as a new £20 million pilot scheme is rolled out across the borough.

In the first of its kind in the UK, Virgin Media will be using locals as guinea pigs from February to test whether the scheme is worth rolling out nation wide.

Currently, rural villagers in the area get speeds that hit just 2mbs – less than five times what Ofcom deems the necessary minimum in today’s internet-connected world.

But the new scheme, called Cable My Street, will see 4,000 homes and businesses in villages including Houghton, West Tytherley, Broughton, Michelmersh and Timsbury, reach speeds of up to 300mbs – or as high as 350mbs for businesses.

This decision from Virgin comes following a push from local campaigners Test Valley Need 4 Speed and West Tytherley Broadband Group, supported by Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes.

“It is totally unacceptable in this day and age for anyone to only be getting 2mbps of internet speed,” she said.

“But now this scheme has the potential to be life changing to so many families and businesses across the borough; I’ve known of small businesses that have had to stop trading due to the poor broadband service they get.

“It is great news that Virgin Media have come on board.”

Some Test Valley villages are part of just five per cent of the UK that currently has no access to high speed broadband.

A statement from the broadband provider added: “Virgin Media is expanding its network in the Test Valley in 2018 to bring ultrafast broadband speeds to more homes and businesses.

“This is a unique project undertaken by Virgin Media in which we were approached by a local campaign group to bring our ultrafast broadband services to the area due to the slow connections residents currently receive – often below 2mbps.

“Once work has been completed, speeds of up to 300Mbps for residents and 350Mbps for businesses will be made available.

“We look forward to starting work on this exciting project next year.”

The project is being fully funded privately without assistance from public funds, with the cost expected to be in the region of £20 million. Virgin Media added that it has done what it can to keep the cost away from villagers.