As discussed in a separate entry on this data base, the Italian Parliament is now reviewing proposed legislation for the regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting in Italy, including via both cable and satellite. On December 7, 1995, the Italian Antitrust Authority issued a formal opinion on this legislation, specifically on House Document 3180-ter, an amended version of a bill originally introduced by Post and Telecommunications Minister Agostino Gambino. The opinion states that although the proposed legislation would formally open the communications sector to competition from private companies, it leaves the State monopoly with overwhelming competitive advantages and thus does not create sufficient opportunities for competitors to enter the market. The opinion addresses the following, specific issues.
The Antitrust Authority points out that, for the installation of cable communications networks, the proposed legislation requires new entrants to obtain a government concession, while the State monopoly, Telecom Italia S.p.A., is subject to no such requirement. Further, such private competitors will not be allowed to receive further concessions if their network already covers an area with a population of more than five million persons. Because Telecom Italia S.p.A. does not require concessions to operate, this limit will apply in an uneven manner to impede competition. The Antitrust Authority's opinion also notes that the concession application procedure in itself is already an extra cost and works as an impediment against market entry.
The Antitrust Authority recommends that the projected date of January 1, 1998, for the elimination of the State monopoly on voice telecommunication services be moved forward one year, to January 1, 1997, in order to reduce the asymmetry existing between Telecom Italia and potential competitors.
With regard to alternative communications networks now owned by the State Rail Road and other entities, the Antitrust Authority observes that, although the proposed legislation prohibits Telecom Italia from purchasing a holding therein and increasing its market dominance, Italian law prohibits private competitors from purchasing such a holding, and the proposed legislation does not amend or abrogate such prohibition.
The mobile telephone sector, which has already been opened to private competition, displays the type of situation which concerns the Antitrust Authority. In the mobile sector, as discussed in another entry on this data base, European antitrust officials have found that the apparently liberalized field still provides advantages to government owned Telecom Italia Mobile S.p.A. A first private competitor has entered the market and the Italian Government has announced that it expects a second private competitor to enter. The presence of these competitors, together with pressure from the European Commission and the Italian Antitrust Authority, should help to make the liberalization of that sector more than a formal exercise. With regard to the remainder of the telecommunications sector, much will depend on the final version of the legislation now pending in Parliament.
The content of this article is intended to provide general information on the subject matter. It does not substitute the advice of legal counsel.
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