NBN RolloutPrime Minister Julia Gillard has switched on a glimpse of the future in Armidale, the first mainland community to receive national broadband network (NBN) services.

The NBN roll-out in the northern NSW city will ultimately bring super-fast broadband to 4882 premises, including the University of New England, but the first to benefit are the Presbyterian Ladies College Armidale and seven others.

‘This is a transformative infrastructure for our nation’s future,’ Ms Gillard told a ceremony at the private girls’ school on Wednesday.

‘It stands to radically change the way we live, the way we work, the way we study, especially in rural and regional Australia, which has so often been forced put up with second best.’

Of the Armidale premises taking part in the NBN program, 88 per cent have agreed to a connection but not necessarily to a paid service.

The NBN is already operating in the Tasmanian towns of Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point.

Another connection is being rolled out in a growth corridor of Adelaide.

The Armidale service will give users access to internet speeds of 100 megabits a second, five times faster than existing ADSL2 copper connections.

‘Unlike the old copper-based internet service, slow connections will be a thing of the past,’ Ms Gillard said, adding the NBN would be a boon for teaching in rural and regional areas.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the Armidale launch was a landmark moment for the nation.

‘It is a significant milestone in our vision to deliver affordable high-speed broadband to every Australian home, school and business,’ he told the ceremony.

Independent MP Tony Windsor, whose electorate of New England includes Armidale, said the NBN had plenty of critics, but the project would reduce the gap in living standards between cities and regional areas.

It had the capacity to overcome the disadvantages of distance and remoteness that country Australians had lived in for many decades.

‘Distance will be irrelevant in terms of education, health, aged care, business opportunities, location.’

But not everyone is impressed with the planned $36 billion fibre-optic network.

Opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said there were cheaper ways to deliver fast broadband across Australia.

Mr Turnbull said it would be cheaper to bring fibre within a kilometre of homes and use the existing copper network to bridge the gap.

‘You can deliver very, very fast broadband for at least half the cost, if not more, of fibre-to-the-home,’ he said.

Nationals senate leader Barnaby Joyce suggested the Armidale NBN roll-out was political payback for Mr Windsor’s support of federal Labor’s minority government.

But Ms Gillard rejected the suggestion, saying the decision was made by NBN Co.

‘What they wanted to do was to have release sites of different types around the country so they could learn some lessons about the broader roll-out,’ she said.

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