THE countdown to the turning off of Telstra's copper telecommunications network will begin next month.
Member for New England Tony Windsor welcomed an announcement yesterday that Telstra would begin shutting down its copper network on November 23, 18 months after the rollout of fibre services under the National Broadband Network began.
He said the announcement was a "huge leap forward for Australian telecommunications".
NBN Co announced yesterday the countdown would begin in a number of NBN first-release areas, including Armidale.
Mr Windsor said the countdown would allow customers to migrate from the ageing copper network used by telecommunications companies such as Telstra.
"It took Australia decades to build the copper network and it has served us very well, but the network is now decaying and the technology is well past its use-by date," Mr Windsor said.
"Fibre is the way of the future and will transform telecommunications in Australia, particularly in country areas which have traditionally received substandard services."
Mr Windsor said the transition to the NBN should be simple.
"To connect to the NBN, all that residents have to do is choose from the range of packages available and call their preferred service provider," Mr Windsor said.
"Unlike the early days of the copper network rollout, when some country people had to lay their own cables to be connected, connection to the NBN is free."
He said Armidale was on track to become the first mainland city fully connected to the NBN, with more than 5400 homes there already connected.
Armidale is one of the first 15 locations to switch over to fibre-optic broadband.
At the end of the 18-month period, people will have the opportunity to move to a new service, and existing fixed phone lines and internet services that run on the existing copper network ADSL and cable internet services will cease to exist.