Italian regulator the Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico (Ministry of Economic Development – MdSE) has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Union of Italian Provinces (UPI) regarding a national broadband plan aimed at reducing the digital divide. Under the plan MdSE hopes to reach 13% of the population which currently does not have access to broadband services. The regulator said via its website that there are parts of provincial Italy not even covered by universal service obligations (USOs) as the distance to end-user is too great. However, MdSE hopes that it can collaborate with local authorities in these regions to facilitate the expansion of infrastructure into these areas, aiming to connect about 1,000 new locations in 2010, which can then be empowered by broadband service providers. The protocol also provides for the establishment of a pilot project for testing next generation networks (NGNs) in areas where no other operator plans to invest in those technologies in the next three years.