Opposition Leader Tony AbbottCANBERRA – Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has again criticised the government’s $36 billion National Broadband Network project as a waste of money, after it was revealed only 4000 customers had signed up to the service so far.
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The connection figures, released this week by the government-owned company set up to deliver the network, are well down on NBN Co’s earlier projection of 35,000 connections in 2011.

That projection also contrasts with its rollout numbers, with 18,200 homes and businesses lying along the fibre optic cable infrastructure laid down so far at a cost of $1 billion.

“The billion dollars that they have spent so far on the rollout works out at $250,000 per connection,” Mr Abbott said yesterday.

“So by any means this is a monumental ripoff.”

But NBN Co said on Monday it was pleased with the 4000 connections achieved by the end of 2011 and expects numbers to ramp up in 2012 as more retail service providers begin offering broadband plans and Australians began migrating to the network from existing services.

It’s also waiting on an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission green light for its deal with the country’s biggest telco Telstra, so it can access the company’s underground infrastructure to lay more fibre.

Under the deal with the government and NBN Co, Telstra will progressively decommission its copper-based network and allow NBN Co to access its pits, manholes and exchanges, and sell some infrastructure. In return, Telstra will receive $11 billion from the government.

Mr Abbott also said that by the federal election in 2013, which polling shows the opposition would win in a landslide, the network was likely to be “embryonic” at best and suggested a Coalition government could pull the plug.

“What we won’t do is throw good money after bad when it comes to the NBN,” he said.

The NBN is expected to be completed by 2021.

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