Blacktown and surrounding suburbs were the first established area in metropolitan Sydney to have the National Broadband Network switched on today.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy said the fibre-to-the-home broadband would go live from today, Sunday, May 5.
Mr Conroy was at Max Webber Library, Blacktown at 10am this morning to switch on the NBN in an official ceremony.
‘‘There were people who said we should build it where it would make the most money first, and you can guess where they meant by that,’’ Mr Conroy said.
‘‘We said no, we are going to build it in remote Australia, we are going to build it in regional Australia, we are not going to build it in the suburbs where they already have a service a little bit faster than copper, first.’’
About 16,000 premises will be able to access the broadband network from this weekend, most in Blacktown, Seven Hills and Prospect.
Mr Conroy was also at the Riverstone Library on Friday to open the Riverstone Digital Hub and launch a free program which teaches people how to use broadband-capable technologies.
He named several Riverstone business people who had already taken part in the program, which helped them get an online presence for their companies.
‘‘I read a survey that said 50 per cent of small businesses aren’t online, yet 80 per cent of people shop online,’’ he said.
‘‘You can’t survive if your customer base is online and you are not.
‘‘The resources that you have now will begin to transform every part of your life, how you live, how you work, how you play.
‘‘It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what your age (is), it doesn’t matter what your economic circumstances are; everyone is going to need to be connected to the digital economy in the future.
‘‘It is a basic utility. It is like water and electricity and you can’t function in a modern society without a basic utility.’’
The average connection rate in areas where the network has been online for 12 months or longer is about 30 per cent, he said.
Mr Conroy told the launch that local Greenway MP Michelle Rowland had been a driving force in lobbying to have the NBN rolled out around Blacktown and Riverstone.
‘‘Blacktown is about to be switched on to the NBN and Riverstone isn’t far behind,’’ Ms Rowland said.
‘‘We hear about western Sydney being left behind; on this project I wanted to make sure western Sydney was first.’’
Ms Rowland said her electorate was the second youngest in Australia and broadband technology was vitally important for the futures of those young people.
The Riverstone Digital Hub involves Blacktown Council and the Western Sydney Institute, which is a TAFE facility.
Residents and business people can access free training, a personal mentor and technology such as new computers, tablets and smart TVs to learn more about their potential uses.