According to sources, Italy plans to spend nearly €7 billion in European recovery funds on broadband infrastructure, an increase of 60% from a previously announced total
Since taking office in February, Italy’s new government, led by Mario ‘Super Mario’ Draghi, has had major decisions to make surrounding the country’s post-Covid-19 economic recovery.
Now, a report from Reuters suggests that the government is looking to spend around €6.7 billion in European recovery funding on improving connectivity infrastructure throughout the country, a roughly 60% increase on the €4.2 billion previously allocated for the task back in January.
According to sources, these funds will be used to improve broadband, 5G, and satellite infrastructure, as part of nearly €50 billion plan to improve digitalisation throughout Italy. This total includes grants for small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as funding for public administration, according to one of the sources.
The government is currently in the process of finalising its Recovery and Resilience Plan, a scheme that would entitle the country to around €206 billion in funding from the EU by 2026. That Draghi and Innovation Minister Vittorio Colao are seeking to use this funding to rapidly increase connectivity throughout the country should come as no surprise. Italy is currently one of the worst performing countries in the European Union when it comes to digital competitiveness, with the European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) putting the country fourth from the bottom in 2019.
In related news, the government has also been reconsidering the plan to form a single, national broadband network by a merger of TIM and Open Fiber. The concept itself has had a tumultuous history, with discussions taking place for over a year and TIM loathe to cede control of any joint venture. Progress seemed to be being made, however, until the change in government left discussions mired in doubt.
Last month, it became clear that the government was re-evaluating the plan to create a single national network, and now, according to reports, it seems that they may be considering alternatives. One such plan could be use to the EU’s funding to rollout broadband networks throughout the country, including the use of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) where traditional fibre is unfeasible for the operators.
Sources suggest that another possible route may be the merger of Open Fiber with TIM’s secondary fibre network, Fibercop. Such an approach would mean that TIM would not have a majority stake in the resulting business and would also appease the regulators, who fear that the full merger of Open Fiber and TIM could damage competition.
There is clearly much work to do when it comes to improving broadband access and quality in Italy and Draghi and his government will take their time to make sure they make the right choice.
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