Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Italy sets out broadband plan

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Responding to the submission of a consultant’s report from Francesco Caio in March (which appears to have been leaked, although my Italian is not quite up to the task of full translation, prior to its formal release this week), the Italian government has announced plans to invest €1.47bn (£1.3bn) in developing broadband coverage in Italy.

The plan, announced to the Italian parliament yesterday by Paolo Romani, undersecretary for telecommunications, is intended to ensure that the whole population has access to broadband services at speeds of between 2 and 20 Mbps by 2012, and stems from a deliberate policy concern with the digital divide: reportedly, 13% of Italians (largely in rural and outlying areas) have no access to the internet or access only at insufficient speeds.

The Caio report for the Italian government (he also undertook one for the UK government last year) is believed to include several options for boosting the roll-out of a high-speed broadband network, including the creation of a new network company.

There are three major policy issues which appear to arise from this ann0uncement:

1. A high-speed network capable of delivering a minimum 2Mbps is beginning to look a familiar concept, as is the target date of 2012. The UK’s Digital Britain initiative is due to be published shortly and may well be looking at similar proposals.

2. The scale of public investment dedicated to achieving the government’s policy aim of broadband universality and overcoming the digital divide is huge. This should be applauded since it represents a serious investment in, and commitment to, the improvement of the future capacity of Italy’s communications industry. At the same time, it would appear that the Italian government has realised that commercial investment is unlikely to be forthcoming, at least in the current economic circumstances, to achieve its social policy aims within its desired timetable.

3. This does raise interesting questions as to how this amount of investment is to be managed and integrated with the country’s existing communications structures. Telecom Italia runs the existing fixed-line communications network and may well have something to fear – or indeed to gain – from Caio’s suggestion of a network company being established to roll-out the network. Clearly, much will depend on the decisions taken as to how this company is to be managed and how its eventual assets will be integrated with those of Telecom Italia. Considerations of how this fits with the competition rules of the European Commission are also likely to have to be made.

Students of government policy in times of economic recession, as well as of new models of government commercial investment in functional areas belonging to companies that were once (and, in Telecom Italia’s case, still (partly) are) public assets, despite having clear overlaps with social policy which is rightly the concern of government, are likely to be very interested in how those decisions are taken – and, more importantly, in what outcomes they have.


Written by Calvin

10/06/2009 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Communications policy

Tagged with ,

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  1. […] The Italian government also detailed its broadband strategy in 2009, with a plan to get universal connections speeds of 2 megabits by […]

  2. […] The Italian government also detailed its broadband strategy in 2009, with a plan to get universal connections speeds of 2 megabits by […]

  3. […] The Italian government also detailed its broadband strategy in 2009, with a plan to get universal connections speeds of 2 megabits by […]

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