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Communications minister Stephan Conroy has insisted national broadband cannot be delivered any cheaper than the $35.9 billion pricetag the NBN carries.

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NBN switch on in Armidale, NSW yesterday.

As the first NBN switch was turned on in mainland Australia yesterday, Conroy leapt to the defence of the controversial $36bn network, insisting criticism by the opposition is wrong.

He also revealed yesterday the take up among resident in Armidale, NSW the first release site, was 87 per cent.

However, a report in The Australian this morning has indicated that this “take up rate” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and the network is revealed to have just over 600 customers although will be “increasing over the next few months,” says  NBN Co’s head of product development, Jim Hassell.

“There isn’t a take-up rate as such; it’s just trials.”

Read NBN Goes Live In NSW, 87 Per Cent Take Up

Broadband speeds are said to be “up to 100 megabits per second” – four times the speed of current fasted available on copper – ADSL2+ at 24 megabits per second.

Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal critic of the broadband rollout, believes broadband can be delivered for at “at least half the cost, if not more”, to taxpayers, a service which he says would be “better faster,” he told ABC radio this week.

There is a better, faster and much cheaper way of doing it via the existing copper network, Turnbull believes.

So, the NBN if Turnbull and the Liberal party  were at the helm would consist of bringing “the fibre further into the field so that it is sufficiently close to residences to be able to deliver very fast broadband over the copper network – so the distance of the copper is for example a kilometre or less between the end of the fibre and the premises,” he told the radio show yesterday.

However, he failed to specify exactly what speeds it would deliver.

 

The minister insists, however, optic fibre is best technology and wireless or copper cannot match in terms of sheer speeds and says experts back this up.

 “They [experts] will tell you the same thing, wireless is a complement that cannot match the performance, it cannot deliver the speeds that fibre can deliver,” Conroy told Sky News at the Armidale launch yesterday.

“Malcolm knows that as new applications are invented … over the next three to five years you cannot deliver the quality of service, you cannot give equivalent service to residents in Armidale if you build a fibre-to-the-node network.”

Turnbull along with the Liberal party en masse, are major opponents on the $36bn project from the outset, criticising every development on the network to date, on what the former has termed “this risky, complex $50 billion investment,” believing costs will run over.

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