Broadband: Italy announces €900M tenders to bridge the digital divide and go even further

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On February 15, the Italian Minister for Economic Development announced a new tranche of public tendering procedures for the awarding of €900 million contracts aimed at the deployment of basic broadband and NGA networks for fast and ultra-fast internet  .

By the announced tenders (starting from the beginning of March), Italy is going to meet the National Broadband Plan’s targets http://www.medialaws.eu/the-italian-broadband-strategy-into-action/ bringing basic internet access to 100% of the 8 million Italian citizens in digital divide. For the time being, according to the figures provided by the Government, 4 million citizens have already been provided with basic internet access; 1.2 million citizens are to be reached by the interventions currently under completion; the forthcoming public tenders will bridge completely the national digital divide by providing the remaining 2.8 million citizens with basic internet access. The completion of the Italian Broadband Plan will require €353 million with the roll-out of 4,000 Km networks and the creation of 1,800 new jobs.

The forthcoming tenders will moreover involve the awarding of €547 million contracts for the roll-out of fast and ultra-fast networks in “white areas” (i.e. areas in “market failure” for the lack of private investments) of five Southern Italian Regions (Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Sicilia) to the benefit of 4 million citizens. This intervention will take place according to the Italian Strategic Project for Ultra-broadband which was approved by the European Commission under State aid measure SA.34199 – C(2012) 9833. According to the Government, in this stage other Italian Regions may join the Ultra-broadband Project also by taking advantage of the EU funds currently available for the financing of broadband infrastructures. The intervention will require the roll-out of a 10,000 Km network and create immediately 3,000 new jobs while fostering growth and competitiveness in the long term according to the 2020 targets of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

By the forthcoming tenders, Italy aims at aligning with the new targets posed for the 2013-2014 period by the EU Digital Agenda as far as fast and ultra-fast internet access is concerned, to be financed by a mix of national funding instruments alongside EU and European Investment Bank funds to compensate for the lack of private sector financing.

With this aim, the European Commission has made a series of funding proposals that are currently being discussed by the European Parliament and the Council as part of the negotiations for the multi-annual financial framework for 2014-2020, including inter alia a new fund named Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) .With a proposed budget of up to €50 billion between 2014-2020 (of which €9.2 billion devoted to broadband and e-services), the CEF is specifically designed to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investments at European level in the fields of transport, energy as well as broadband and digital services.

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