Decree-Law 133/2014 (September 12 2014), known as the 'Unlock Italy Decree', has significant implications for the telecoms sector. In particular, a 50% tax credit is envisaged for wideband in 'white areas' – that is, where there is no return on private investment. The scale and impact of this initiative remain to be seen, but it will no doubt prove beneficial for the telecoms industry. It is too soon to make accurate forecasts, but industry operators – including Vodafone, Wind, Fastweb and even Telecom Italia – have reacted positively to the news.

According to the vast majority of operators, the tax credit for new investments in ultra wideband is an important sign, but the government must pick up the pace and relax the bureaucracy that continues to make doing business in Italy so complex. As Elio Catania, president of Confindustria Digitale, has noted: "Now we've got the government's attention, but what we want is for the digital transformation of the economy to become a true national priority." Therefore, efforts need to be made to simplify the bureaucracy – including at local level – which holds back prospective investors, and to address issues such as the implementing decrees on electromagnetic fields, for which the telecoms industry has been waiting for more than 19 months.

According to Franco Bassanini, chairman of the Deposits and Loans Fund, the Unlock Italy Decree has introduced measures which "make investment in telecommunications networks faster and easier" and "simplify excavation procedures, reducing the cost of laying fibre optic cables by 30%". "The Unlock Italy measures are expected to increase the return on investment by between 2.5 and 3.8 percentage points," he concluded.

The tax credit can be applied to work included in plans approved after June 30 2014 and carried out on landline and mobile networks and wireless and satellite plants, including infrastructural backhaul work relating to primary and secondary user access. Investments of between €200,000 and €1 million are required, depending on the size of the municipality involved. Work must be completed within nine to 12 months.

In the absence of any certainty on timing and procedures, telecoms operators have interpreted this tax incentive as a sign that the government has begun to show an interest in ultra wideband investment.

Vittorio Noseda

Carlo Grignani

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