Want 1Gbps broadband? Want it for free? Italy's innovative plan to increase fibre takeup

Summary:Italy's Lombardy Region is rolling out superfast broadband on a small scale. To encourage local residents and businesses to take up the service, it's giving connectivity away at no cost.

Sacro Monte di Varese, the symbol of the city of Varese
Sacro Monte di Varese, the symbol of the city of Varese. Image: Shutterstock

Fibre broadband is still seeing slow adoption in Italy: only five percent of Italians have access to speeds above 10Mbps, according to a recent Akamai report, while in Switzerland, for instance, the figure is 42 percent.

Italy is ranked 40th of a sample of 51 countries; its average connection speed of 5.2Mbps is also quite slow is slow in comparison to nations such as the UK (9.4Mbps) or the Netherlands (12.4 Mbps). While the situation may seem disappointing overall, there are some promising initiatives here and there aimed at reversing the trend.

One such project was recently launched by the Lombardy Region: an initiative in the Varese municipality to connect 600 residents — households, schools, businesses — with fibre broadband.

The rollout with be fibre to the premises, meaning that fibre optic cabling will run from the exchange to the boundary of a building, allowing for the maximum possible connection speed.

The service, which in this experimental phase (expected to last two years), will be provided for free and will offer speeds of up to 100Mbps — and, with a future upgrade, that figure is expected to go as high as 1Gbps. The hope is that the speed bump will allow local families to make use of innovative online services, including telemedicine, e-learning, and interactive HD TV.

Works to rollout the cables will start this summer and will be carried out by a temporary joint venture formed by private companies Sielte and Italtel. The two, after making a successful bid for the contract, signed an agreement with Infratel, a company fully controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development and in charge of drawing up the superfast broadband connectivity plan for Varese.

The cost of the intervention, according to a preliminary study released a couple of years ago, should amount to a little less than half a million euros (€472,578 to be precise).

Overall, the Region invested roughly €2.63m in an effort to bring superfast broadband to citizens, a figure which also includes the cost of a similar initiative being rolled out simultaneously in the nearby province of Monza and of an experiment launched in the industrial area of the small municipality of Concorezzo. 

Read more from Italy

Topics: Broadband, EU, Fiber, Government

About

In the last 12 years Federico has been working as a freelance journalist, at first covering current affairs and economy and then focusing on technology, writing extensively for several Italian national media outlets. He's also the author of a number of books on social media and the Internet and was a Reuters Institute for the Study of... Full Bio

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