HOW is the coverage of Italy with super-fast Internet, through public funds, going? Not so good, unfortunately. The experts say it, the government recognizes it, blaming the previous one and the operators. And now the official numbers certify it.
The uncertain level. At stake is not only the right – established by government plans and decrees – of all Italians to have a network that is in step with the times, i.e. with the current needs of families and businesses. Also at risk are the 1.8 billion euros of European funds obtained by Italy for this purpose. We can lose them if we do not complete the relevant coverage plan.
From year to year
Let’s start by saying that the bad news is not just one, but double. In fact, there are currently two ultra-broadband plans in Italy on a fixed network. And they’re both late. The first concerns the white areas (those with total market failure).
Started in 2016 (Renzi government) it was supposed to bring fast internet to all Italians who were not yet covered and do it already by 2020. The delay grows every year. The latest data came out a few days ago, by Infratel, the public company that supervises the works.
It is the 2023 budget: this plan, now historic, is at 54 percent progress (after eight years). The Government – we read – has so far requested 54 million euros in penalties to the operator who won the coverage tender, Open Fiber.
The second plan is for 2021 and work started in 2022: Italy 1 Gigabit, with Pnrr fundstherefore bound to the deadlines dictated by Europe.
It is more ambitious than the first plan, but necessary because it aims to bring to all Italians an Internet network that is not only fast but “future-proof”with speeds of at least 1 Gigabit.
A fiber optic network (for the most part) which, once laid, will have to guarantee Italy to keep up for the next decades. This is what is needed for an advanced economy like ours, according to the strategies of Europe, which has approved the plan with Italy.
The government’s Connetti Italia website reports the status of the plan (as confirmed by Infratel a Republic), with the latest data available: in November it had reached just 3.46 percent of the expected civic addresses. 15.32 percent of it has been put into production.
edited by Alessandro Longo
However, a controversy has emerged regarding civic addresses. About half of those envisaged in the plan turned out to be non-existent, due to historical problems with our databases of Italian toponymy.
The numbers to be covered will therefore be around half of what was expected, but this is not good news because the territory to be reached with fiber optic cables will be the same, but with more rarefied houses.
At least another year
Even, due to this unexpected event, it may be necessary to lay more fibre: this is what Open Fiber (one of the winners of the 1 Gigabit tender; the other is Tim) reported on the pages of Sole24Ore in recent days. The operator expects it to serve like this for at least another year more than expected (June 2026).
“The Italy 1 Giga Plan – like the previous infrastructure plans dedicated to white areas – has been characterized since its inception by delays with respect to the objectives”, he points out Lorenzo Tavazzi, Partner and Head of the Scenarios and Intelligence Area of The European House – Ambrosetti, consulting company. “There therefore seems to be an underestimation of the objectives or an overestimation of the implementation capacity”.
“In order not to lose the European resources available, a further revision of the objectives to be agreed with the EU appears difficult at the moment because the terms would go beyond the expiry of the funds provided by the Pnrr, leaving as the only possibility a joint effort of the parties involved in the implementation of the Plan”, says Tavazzi.
edited by Alessandro Longo
“It must be clarified that the delays accumulated with respect to the deadlines indicated by the Pnrr are a direct consequence of the decisions taken by the government that preceded us, with respect to which we intervened promptly,” he said at the end of 2023 Alessio Butti (Fdi) at the hearing in the Chamberthe undersecretary for innovation.
The general economic situation and the stalemate in the real wages of Italians also have an impact. The operators who have to lay the fiber have “difficulty finding specialized staffalso due to the unattractiveness of wages, eroded by the inflation that has occurred in the last two years without the remunerations for operators foreseen by the tenders being adequate”, he adds Stefano da Empoli, president of the specialized observatory I-Com. “It’s difficult to have a wedding with dried figs, given the stringent objectives we had set ourselves,” she continues.
“An objective point”
The problems are so serious that a reset of the entire plan is probably needed, according to Cristoforo Morandini, historical telecommunications expert, analyst with Ptsclas: “we need to make an objective assessment of the state of the art, identify any critical issues and reprogram, if necessary, the work plan”.
Without underestimating another problem: Infratel data also says that in the areas reached by the plan there were too few subscriptions. The causes are numerous, but what stands out is a “progressive tendency of users to replace the fixed connection with the mobile one (to save on the monthly fee)”, says Tavazzi. Every year the number of active landlines plummets, in fact, according to Agom data.
The decline in real wages has a negative impact therefore also on subscriptions. “This element, observing the predictable trends, seems to have no signs of trend reversals, at least in the short term,” says Tavazzi.
The government has so far intervened, as Butti noted, with initiatives to streamline cabling work, organize public databases, encourage demand, as stated in the ultra-broadband strategy 2023-2026.