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Italian broadband plan gets a reprieve

13 Nov 2009 | 14.45 Europe/London
Italy released financial data today showing the country had exited recession, which could be good news for the 7.8 million people in the country who still have no access to broadband.

Earlier this year, the Italian government had promised to invest €800 million of public funds to provide broadband connections to the entire population by 2012 – money that had yet to materialise. But last week it appeared that the project was in jeopardy.

"Funding for the development of broadband will be released when the economic and financial crisis is over," Gianni Letta, Undersecretary of State to the Prime Minister’s Office, told a press conference on 4 November.

Now, however, Italian press reports are saying that a compromise may be reached. The Ministry of Economic Development has put forward a "plan B", under which the €800 million to be invested would be made available in several instalments between now and 2013. The next Government meeting is expected to give the go ahead to release the first tranche of between €200 million and €250 million.

The “Romani Plan”

The so-called “Romani Plan”, named after deputy communications minister Paolo Romani who introduced it in May this year, promises to bring broadband to everyone in country by 2012, with 96% of the population getting speeds of 20 Mbps, and the remainder receiving at least 2 Mbps.

This makes Italy the second country to suggest universal access at 2Mbps, the other being the UK of course. Other countries in Europe, such as Finland, and France, are aiming lower, setting their sights on download speeds of 1 Mbps or less.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Italy’s plan bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the UK. Francesco Caio, the charismatic former chief executive of Cable & Wireless, and ex-vice-president of Lehman Brothers’ European operations, has previously acted as telecoms consultant to both the UK and Italian governments.