On June 10, 1998 the Italian Ministry of Communications issued the long-awaited Ministry Decree on the principles affecting interconnection agreements. Notwithstanding the fact that interconnection agreements are defined by law as private agreements between operators, the Decree sets the general discipline of the relevant contents, and provides for very strong powers of the Authority for Communications in the matter.

The Authority is charged with the task of ensuring an equitable content of the agreements, such that one party may not be unduly favoured by the provisions. Article 3 provides for the possibility of each party to submit to the Authority all data regarding the negotiations developed with the other party, and to file a request of settlement of any unresolved issue. The intervention of the Authority may also be invoked after the closing of the agreement, in order to resolve disputes in the interpretation and in the execution of the contract.

The Ministry Decree details the compulsory elements of interconnection agreements, which may be resumed in the provisions on the terms of payment, liability rules, intellectual property rights, duration of the agreement, dispute resolution procedures and technical specifications of the interconnection offer. With respect to such last item, the Decree establishes a series of elements which must necessarily be part of the offer:

  • a description of measures undertaken to ensure parity of access of users to the different networks;
  • a detailed description of technical interfaces used for interconnection;
  • information regarding the billing of interconnection traffic;
  • minimum quality standards and proposed ways to measure them;
  • technical conditions for the activation of the service.

The Decree further specifies the obligations pertaining to operators detaining a "relevant market power". Such entities must adopt equitable measures in their interconnection offers, such to assure the application of equal conditions in case of interconnection of controlled companies or competitors. The Decree also provides for general provisions on interconnection costs: in this regard a complex system of cost disclosure has been devised in order to separate general costs borne by interconnecting operators from the costs related to the requested configuration. The Authority for Communications will be charged with the task of monitoring the interconnection marked and, as from January 1999, with the task of assuring the fairness and equitability of the conditions applied.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.