Prime Minister Julia Gillard has presided over the launch of the first National Broadband Network (NBN) test site on the Australian mainland.
The event was at the Presbyterian Ladies College in Armidale, New South Wales, which is now connected to the fiber-based broadband network.
According to NBN Co, a number of residents, businesses, and institutions within the 25,000 person town will be brought online in the coming months – if they are located within the First Release Site.
There have been a small number of people in Armidale that have been trialing the service that provides download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second in the last month. They join consumers from three towns in Tasmania that were brought online in August last year.
“Today marks a significant milestone in our national rollout,” said Mike Quigley, CEO of NBN Co.
Those being plugged into the network are being connected to internet service providers (ISPs) that have completed the NBN certification process, including iiNet, Internode, iPrimus, and Telstra.
The first two mainland customers for Internode are IT professionals Stephen Stroud and Owen Hedger, who were both praising the service.
“Instead of taking 10 minutes to watch a video on YouTube – half of which is delays caused by the video stream buffering – the NBN lets you watch it in real-time in just five minutes. When it’s a training video, this allows you to understand it a lot better, which makes you more likely to use it,” said Stroud.
Hedger, an Armidale computer repair store worker, is also a firm believer in the business benefits of the NBN.
“I used our NBN service to gain remote access to work from home and it was more like being on the LAN (Local Area Network) than using the Internet. For a business with multiple offices across a region, that sort of communication could be a real cost saver and a big boost to productivity,” said Hedger.
Armidale is one of the first five release sites on the mainland of Australia, with Kiama (Minnamurra Downs) in New South Wales, Townsville in Queensland, Willunga in South Australia, and Brunswick in Victoria all slated to begin customer testing in the ‘coming months’ – according to a statement from NBN Co.
Peter Erskine, a researcher at the University of New England, is connected to the NBN with iiNet and joined the event via teleconferencing.
“The NBN connection makes it possible for me to teleconference online and keep in touch with my university colleagues online more reliably than before,” said Erskine.
“It’s a great privilege to be one of the first iiNet customers to be connected to the NBN and I look forward to the national rollout so I can keep in touch with my research partners around the country. I think it will greatly improve the way people work and how they’re educated – and that’s only the beginning.”