On May 19 2011 the Communications Authority (AGCOM) agreed on a proposed regulatory framework for access to next-generation networks. The text of the provisions will be reviewed by the European Commission while a public consultation is held to allow industry stakeholders to comment on new elements of the framework.

AGCOM proposes an innovative regulatory approach that is in line with the commission's guiding principles in its Recommendation on Regulated Access to Next-Generation Access Networks (2010/572/EU), and with the regulatory course plotted (or already taken) in a number of other EU countries. It does not depend on pre-determined structural solutions, but allows operators to choose from various options. Moreover, as a working proposal, the scheme remains open for further suggestions and improvements.

Regulating services on fibre-optic networks (rather than traditional copper-wire networks) presents a particular challenge, as the networks themselves are not yet fully in place. The central thematic issue of AGCOM's regulatory approach is how to balance the protection of competition and a commitment to open networks with the necessary incentives to ensure adequate investment.

Among other things, the new rules seek to:

  • ensure that high levels of openness and accessibility are independent of the incumbent's decisions on technology and network structure;
  • allow the creation and operation of alternative (parallel) networks using various structures (point-to-point technologies, gigabit passive optical networks or hybrid structures);
  • adopt a 'ladder of investment' approach to allow operators to select the best solution for providing access services on the basis of their infrastructure levels;
  • facilitate the implementation of retail services supported by various levels of service and quality; and
  • promote joint investment in the implementation of new networks, particularly passive infrastructure and cabling, to encourage the development of parallel networks and reduce investment risk, especially in less profitable areas.

For further information on this topic please contact Vittorio Noseda or Carlo Grignani at NCTM Studio Legale Associato by telephone (+39 02 72 5511), fax (+39 02 72 55 1501) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).