Prime Minister Julia Gillard has officially launched the National Broadband Network (NBN) project. The first mainland location to be connected to the $36 billion project was Armidale in New South Wales, where Gillard and Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy announced the milestone.
Four other test sites—Brunswick in Melbourne, Victoria; Townsville in Queensland; Kiama in coastal New South Wales; and Willunga in South Australia—are also due to be connected to the new fibre optic solution this year. Testing at Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point in Tasmania started in 2010.
Gillard said NBN Co had deliberately chosen the sites for their differences. “Armidale is one place it’s going, but for example it’s going to outer suburban Adelaide, so in a very different environment, an urban growth corridor,” she said. “They’ve done all of this deliberately to learn lessons for the rollout when it happens right around the nation.”
While the Armidale connection was a “milestone” NBN Co chief Mike Quigley says there will be delays as they have yet to finalise a deal with Telstra. Telstra and NBN Co have a $11 billion agreement covering infrastructure access and the future of the copper wire network that requires approval by Telstra shareholders.
Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull criticised the project as being too expensive, noting that fast broadband could be delivered to regional areas like Armidale for half the cost to taxpayers.
“It’s a good thing for all Australians to have access to very fast broadband [but] they are seeking to deliver that objective in a way that imposes a much higher cost on taxpayers than is necessary,” he said.
The Federal Government hopes to have 93 percent of Australian homes connected to the NBN by late 2020.