Eighty thousand more people in ’s region now have access to broadband, after years of not having the opportunity, as a result of a series of upgrades to local networks. These are the initial achievements of a Joint Technical Committee established after the regional government, Lepida SpA and Telecom Italia signed a contract in April. The committee was founded to analyse and assess telecommunications exchanges in in order to close the "divide" between those who have access to information technology and those who still do not, especially in the mountainous Apennine area. All of this has been made possible thanks to work carried out by the regional administration, Lepida and Telecom Italia, in part through a partnership with Infratel. The Committee expects work to continue on exchanges until around a hundred have been upgraded.
“A step forward to overcome the digital divide, down to 10% now – said Alfredo Peri, Regional Councillor to tangible and intangible infrastructures, at the press conference that took place today – . Without doubt a significant result, even more in this economically hard period, that means giving to the community of Emilia Romagna - citizens and businesses - the chance to exploit technologies and infrastructures at the full. It is not just a 'luxury', it is a need. And it is our primary goal: allowing the regional community to grow as a whole”.
Alessandro Talotta, Head of Equivalence and Regulatory Affairs, said: “Thanks to such experiences, Telecom Italia believes that it is only through ongoing Public/Private Partnerships that we may rapidly develop local telecommunications infrastructure to meet user needs. This form of development takes place with the utmost transparency and legal compliance.”
The regional government has invested €5 million to close the digital divide in . In addition to €15 million provided by the Ministry of Communications, the money is being used to implement a general plan to upgrade 123 telephone exchanges in concert with Ministry of Economic Development in-house company Infratel. The agreement signed in April with Telecom Italia has been conceived to make the most of broadband infrastructure investments that have already been implemented, planned or are still at the assessment stage by the regional government, local authorities and Telecom Italia.
The Joint Technical Committee analysed local needs and the feasibility of laying new fibre-optic cables to 123 exchanges. In its first few months, the Committee has already achieved its first major success: Telecom Italia has included upgrade work for 54 exchanges in its 2010 plan. The upgrades will make it possible for these exchanges to provide ADSL services at a nominal bandwidth of at least 7 Mbps via fixed lines to residents and companies in a number of different areas, for purchase directly from Telecom Italia or alternative operators. The number of exchanges involved in the upgrade plan rose from eight in Telecom Italia's initial plan (May 2010) to 29 exchanges in June, 46 in July, and 54 exchanges in August. Telecom Italia is also undertaking a further 15 upgrades on its own; upgrades have been completed at Pianello Val Tidone () and Sestola (), where services are already being marketed.
Thus far, a total of 71 upgrades have been rolled out to 54 municipalities. In consequence, 80,000 more people (2% of the population) previously unable to access broadband now have access, in another step towards reducing the digital divide. According to Lepida's estimates, the proportion of the population without broadband access has now fallen from 12% to 10%.
A list of the exchanges involved and Telecom Italia/Infratel plan data is attached.
Bologna, 1 september 2010
Attachments (in Italian):