Australia's NBN reaches 4,000 connections, but critics question its financial viability

NBN Co., the operator of Australia's ambitious open access broadband network program, reported that it reached 4,000 customers as of the end of 2011 and plans to extend the network to towns and suburbs covering a further half million premises in 2012. Out of this figure, 2,315 of the premises were connected via fiber and the remaining 1,700 that reside in rural and remote areas were connected via an interim satellite connection.

However compelling this milestone is, Tony Abbot, Australia's Federal Opposition leader, remains unimpressed.

"The billion dollars that they (the government) have spent so far on the rollout works out at AUD 250,000 (USD 258,215) per connection ... So by any means this is a monumental rip-off," he said.

In October, NBN Co. revealed plans to extend its fiber network to cover 500,000 premises in every state and territory. Over the next three years, the service provider said it will roll out the NBN network to another 3 million homes and plans to extend fixed wireless connections to the first rural communities by the middle of this year.

Although NBN did not reach its previously set 35,000 connections goal by the end of 2011, the service provider remains confident that connections will increase this year as more retail service providers announce participation in the NBN.

Despite the progress NBN Co. has made, Abbot does not believe the service provider will be able to meet its expansion deadline on time, arguing that "the rollout is massively behind schedule."

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