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Companies battle for control of Italy's national fiber network

Philip Willan | Dec. 22, 2014
Telecom companies are vying for control of a small company that rents out fiberoptic cables in Milan in a competition that could determine who gets to build and control Italy's high speed telecommunications network.

An official at the Economic Development Ministry said there were three possible outcomes to the battle over Metroweb: outright control going to a single telecom player; sale of only part of F2i's 54 percent stake to a major player; or the opening of the company to all the major telecom operators. He said the government did not intend to interfere in market choices.

"The government has an objective, which is to improve broadband connectivity throughout the country, but it doesn't have a model as to how that should be achieved," the official, who asked not to be named, said in an interview.

Tax breaks for investments in high speed broadband and public funds to encourage the development of networks in areas where there was insufficient demand to attract purely commercial investments would ensure that Italy began to close its own digital divide, the ministry official said. "We need to develop both our copper and our fiberoptic networks, because we are so far behind," he said.

The government will still be able to exert some influence on the outcome through its control of Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the state-owned lender that owns a 46 percent stake in Metroweb. "The Cassa has a strategic role to play as a vehicle of industrial policy," the official said. "It's trying to decide how to deal the cards so that it becomes the pivot of a company that must invest in the long term infrastructure needs of the country. It will have a big say in the choices."


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