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Shrinking revenues and chronic delay in broadbank rollout plague Italian telecommunications, says regulator

by Carmine Fotina

Declining revenues, especially in the traditional sectors, rules to be updated (for telecommunications as well as for television), and Italy’s chronic delay in rolling out a national broadband network. The annual report of the Communications Authority (AGCOM) summarized the more or less known limitations, as well as the innovative trends that instill some optimism for the future.

There was a strong and direct message on Italian “backwardness” in the spread of high-speed internet connections on fixed networks, “alarming” especially with reference to the ultra-wideband technology, the regulator said. In this field, Italy has a coverage level of 36%, compared with 68% of the EU-28, with regional situations that reached 100%.

“The situation is even more critical if we consider the penetration level: only 4% of the families used connections above 30 megabits per second, compared with 26% of the EU-28. The connections above 100 megabits were practically non-existent,” highlighted the President of AGCOM, Angelo Marcello Cardani, in his report to Parliament.

In the slowest segment of broadband (2-20 Mbps), the gap was slightly “acceptable,” also by virtue of a 1% improvement at the national level over the previous year, but compared to infrastructure in line with the EU average, the penetration level proved lower, with 51% of the households subscribing compared with 70% of the EU average.

In this respect, Cardani recalled the positive ambitions of the digital development plan enacted by the government, but avoided mentioning the delays that have characterized its implementation so far, with the postponement sine die of the new provisions to stimulate and simplify the installation of optical fiber cables.

The AGCOM President alternated numbers with proposals to government to review the regulations.

In 2015, telecommunications revenues decreased by 7.7%, while in the past five years, “classic” media (newspapers, TV, radio) have lost almost €2 billion in revenue, with peaks above 30% in the case of newspapers.

The content offer, the ecosystem of suppliers and the “merger game” of alliances are shaking the markets and urging a rethink of the rules, “a wide-ranging reform of the Italian legislation in the field of communications, information and media,” Cardani said.